Holy Saturday: The Greek Orthodox prepare for the resurrection of Jesus

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A mosaic at Hosios Loukas depicts a resurrected Christ descending from Hades. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

Holy Saturday, the eve of Greek Easter, marks the last day of Holy Week. On Holy Saturday morning, the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates the burial of Jesus.

In the Bible, the chief priests and Pharisees asked Pontius Pilate to secure the tomb of Jesus Christ for three days on the Saturday before his resurrection.

They did this because they suspected that the followers of Christ would try to steal his body buried during the night and then preach to the people, announcing that he was risen. This, they thought, would be his greatest deception.

Greek Holy Saturday and Easter celebrations

On Holy Saturday, psalms are read and resurrection hymns are sung, telling of Christ’s descent into Hades: “Today Hades cried out with groaning,” says the psalm.

The hymns speak of victory over death and the celebration of the day is called “First Resurrection”. Most of the readings today are from the Old Testament on prophecy and the promise of victory over death.

Grecian Delight supports Greece

In Greece, the Mass of the Resurrection takes place on Holy Saturday night. A few minutes before midnight, all the lights are extinguished and the priest comes out of the altar holding candles lit by the Holy Light, which is distributed to all inside and outside the church.

Holy Saturday Resurrection Service conducted earlier this year

At midnight, the priest leaves the church and announces the resurrection of Jesus.

Fireworks and firecrackers go off and the dark night is filled with bright and colorful explosions.

After the resurrection mass, people return home, carrying the sacred light, and use it to draw a cross on the doorstep with the smoke of the candle.

They also light a candle inside the house which remains lit for thirty to forty days.

They sit around the table to eat mageiritsaa soup made from lamb or beef offal.

Greeks break red eggs on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday

In Greece, the breaking of eggs or tsougrisma (τσούγκρισμα in Greek), begins the night after the resurrection service, the night before Easter, and continues the next day at the Greek Easter feast.

Eggs painted red are tapped together and cracked together between two people as they exchange the traditional Easter greeting”Christos anesti!” (“Christ is risen”) – “Alithos anesti!(“He really has”).

In Greece, the red death of eggs, symbolizing the blood of Christ, has continued throughout the millennia as an Easter tradition.

The egg itself is symbolic, as its hard shell represents the sealed tomb of Jesus – the cracking of which symbolizes his resurrection from the dead and his coming out of the tomb.

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