Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday, April 23, 2006 Pascha

I haven’t written in several days, but the things that have happened over the past couple of days couldn’t possibly be described in writing. I will try my best though.

On Friday, I woke up and helped my friend paint the lines out on her street. We were actually very good Samaritans and we painted the neighbors as well because they are kind of old and it must be done by Easter. We had so much fun though, and by the end it looked really good. Plus, I am able to add it to my “street conservation” credit. J

After that, I went to Lefkes with her again and hung out. Because it was good Friday, everything was closed. It is a very big holiday, but not in the sense of celebrating. Good Friday symbolized that Christ has been crucified. It is supposed to be a deeply sad day. The bell at the church tolls non-stop all day from 6 in the morning until 3 in the morning (that’s when I lost count and fell asleep anyway). It is a day to go to church, and there are essentially services all day. There is a very beautiful church in Lefkes, so I just went and sat outside of it (I wasn’t properly attired to go in) and listened to the Byzantine Greek being sung in the service. It was very nice. I stayed there on the bench outside the church for about an hour.

After that, I decided to go for a walk, so I just followed paths until I got to the end of town. At the edge of town, there are the remains of the road built during the Byzantine Empire. The road is amazing in the places that it is well preserved. I walked a couple of miles down the path until I got a sense that it was time to go back. The path was beautiful with a stream running beside it at times. It took me up a mounting, through an olive grove and over fields of flowers. I really enjoyed it.

When I walked back, the church service was over, but they had a parade of the Greek equivalent of the Boy Scouts (except that the Greek version is a bit more morbid with it’s roots in Fascist Greece).

We finally left Lefkes, and I spent the rest of the afternoon eating dinner, snacking on gelato, taking photos and visiting with friends.

There was another church service at night, so I decided to go to it. I was told that it was one of the most amazing things I would see on Paros. At first, it was just chanting in Greek, and it seemed a little dull. However, the church is beautiful because it is all decked out with purple ribbons and flowers, etc. The tomb of Christ (holding the icon inside) is covered in flowers, and lines form for hours on end to kiss it (as it tradition in Orthodox Christendom). The priests spent and hour lighting candled and carrying them around the church. They also were swinging incense everywhere, and it was a very fun tradition to watch.

At 11:00, they sung a very beautiful hymn and then threw thousands of rose petals from the dome of the church down onto the tomb (and the priests). It was an amazing thing to see. I photographed it, and the photos will be ready by the end of the semester to view, but I would say that it WAS one of the most worthwhile things I’ve seen. It really was a religious experience. I had a good spot to watch it from as well up in the balcony of the church which is closed except for two days a year.

Yesterday was Holy Saturday. I spent the day working on photographs and doing other things for school. However, at 10:00, it was back to church for me. I spent one full hour taking photos of the beautiful but empty church. At 11:00, the service started, and I listened to the Greek that I don’t know and never will for a while. At 11:55, the lights went out in the church and in the holy sanctum, you could see the priest light up a light. It then grew as the alter boys and everyone else lit their lights. The point is that at that moment (12:00AM Easter morning), Christ has been resurrected. The light symbolizes new life. Everyone was then to light their light from the light of the priest or someone that had lit their light from the priest. It took a while for me to get my candle lit up in the balcony, but as my friend was giving me a light, fireworks went off outside and the song “Christos Anasti (Christ is Risen)” reached it’s high point. It was amazing. I took many photos of the light spreading over the church, and it was a great experience. When I managed to make my way through the crowd of thousands of people, I took my candle home and made a black cross over my doorway. Though this sounds as though it has its roots in the Passover, it is actually an Orthodox tradition to keep the evil sprits away for the year. The amazing thing is that the light that burns in the church and across many Parian homes all year (until next Easter) was born on that night, and I took part in it.

Today it is Easter Sunday. Everything is as dead as I’ve ever seen it in the town. People are at home roasting their lamb, eating the things that have been deprived of them for 40 days. The old men on the street say “Christos Anasti” (Christ is Risen) to which I reply “Alithos Anasti” (He is Truly Risen). I get a “Bravo!” and a pat on the back. I say. “Chronia Polla” (Many Years) and head on my way with a smile on my face.

All I have to say to you is “Kalo Pashcha!” (Beautiful Easter).

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