Eastern Orthodox Easter (Pascha)
Pascha means Passover. It is an Aramaic word used several times in the King James New Testament Greek Lexicon to describe items involved in the Passover. It refers to the paschal lamb or paschal sacrifice. In Exodus, God commanded the Israelites to sacrifice lambs and paint the doorways to their homes with the lambs’ blood, sparing them from the coming of the Angel of Death and allowing their firstborn sons to live. As a result of the Angel of Death killing the pharaoh’s firstborn son, he allowed the Israelites to leave Israel.
Pascha also refers to the Passover Feast, which the Israelites held to commemorate their rescue from slavery. In the early Christian church, Jesus was seen as the paschal lamb, which led to his death and resurrection being celebrated on the same day as Passover. While the Council of Nicaea established a new holiday to celebrate Jesus’s death and resurrection, Easter, the Julian and Gregorian churches still celebrate the traditional Pascha.
Before midnight on the day preceding Pascha, the Midnight Office will be chanted, followed by the priest removing the epitaphios from the tomb and placing it on the altar, where it remains until the Ascension. Around midnight, congregants will circle the church carrying banners, icons, candles, and Bibles. The priest will then read the account of the empty tomb and engage in dialogue with an interlocutor inside the church. The congregation will then recite Psalms and enter the church, where they will hear a sermon and the Divine Liturgy. Additionally, some members bring food they have been abstaining from before Pascha, which the priest blesses. They then eat the food after the service. Members may also exchange red-dyed eggs, which represent the blood of Christ.
Know that those participating in Pascha will celebrate late on Saturday night and most, if not all, of the day on Sunday. Therefore, avoid scheduling important events or activities on the night of the 15th or the 16th.