I’m a nostalgic person, and I’ve become really attached to our life in Greece, and even more attached to Orthodoxy in Greece. This is especially highlighted during Holy Week and Pascha. First of all, schools and universities are closed for all of Holy Week and Bright Week. So, we have lots of time to attend services; and there is no shortage of opportunity to worship in the many churches of Thessaloniki. When it finally comes time to bid farewell to Greece these are the memories I think I’ll hold the most dear from these “high and holy days”:
1. The pleasant surprise of being able to venerate the holy relics of St. Lazarus on Lazarus Saturday.
2. Going to the monastery to help the sisters dye 3,500 red eggs.
3. The darkness of the church at the beginning of the Bridegroom services, and the deep voices of the chanters, chanting holy words to the beat of holy melodies.
4. That everyone brings liturgical books to read along – we bought ours at the grocery store the first year we lived here. (Yes, they sell liturgical books at the grocery store, along with charcoal for your censer, and wicks for your candili).
5. How the church is suddenly packed with people just before the chanter intones the “Kyrie” of the hymn of St. Cassaine on Holy Tuesday evening.
6. How many people show up on Holy Thursday evening, bearing bouquets and wreaths of red and white flowers to adorn the crucified Lord.
7. Hearing wishes for a “Good Resurrection” all around me.
8. The somber but other-worldly feeling the whole city seems to be filled with as we approach the Lord’s saving passion.
9. Hearing the 12 Gospels read in the original Greek they were written in on Holy Thursday.
10. The sound of bells from every church in the city ringing the death toll from morning until night on Holy Friday.
11. How the chandeliers are gently spun and the stasidia are banged (mimicking the sound of the earth quake) during the chanting of “Arise O God” on Holy Saturday morning.
12. Hearing the sound of different church bells in the immediate vicinity also proclaiming the Resurrection at midnight during the Matins service.
13. Saying “Christ is Risen” to friend and stranger when greeting each other.
14. All the different priests who come to read the Gospel in various languages for Agape’s vespers.
15. How dead quiet the city is for the first few days after Pascha because everything is closed and most of the people are in their villages.
I hope you all have as many or more wonderful memories from wherever in the world you celebrated the Lord’s Resurrection!
Christ is Risen!