A darkened church, filled with people anticipating the moment when the lights would come on, illuminating the array of flowers, the linen-covered icon stands and the crowd that gathered there.
This is the way it was around midnight Saturday at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral. The faithful left the dark church and walked around the building three times solemnly singing “Thy Resurrection O Christ our Savior, the angels in heaven sing, Enable us on earth, to glorify thee in purity of heart.” They were led by priests, deacons and altar servers carrying icons and banners.
Then it happened. Father Innocent Dresdow stood at the top of the entry steps proclaiming “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death.” The faithful responded, “And in the tombs bestowing life.”
The rest of the service was festive and bright. Lively singing from the choir directed by David Young of St. Innocent’s Academy and a teacher at St. Herman’s Seminary, expressed the joy of Pascha — the feasts of all feasts on which Christ was resurrected from the dead.
Frequently shouts of “Christ is risen!” came from Dresdow, who proclaimed the words in English, Slavonic, Greek, Alutiiq, Yup’ik and other languages. The faithful responded “Indeed He is risen!”
The universality of the Easter message was expressed later in the morning when the Gospel passage was read in English, Russian, Alutiiq, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Spanish, Yup’ik and French.
The morning liturgy ended around 3 a.m. and was followed by the blessing of baskets of kulich – Easter bread— and a Paschal meal.
Many Orthodox faithful prefer using the term “Pascha” in referring to the celebration of Resurrection. The word alludes to Christ as the Passover Lamb, who was sacrificed for the sins of the world.
Easter comes from Eáástre, the name for the Roman goddess of fertility.
The date for Orthodox Pascha was determined by members of early Church councils who decided that the holiday should fall on the first Sunday after the spring equinox and full moon. It must also occur after the Jewish Passover. Last year Orthodox and Catholic and Protestant Easter occurred on the same day.