Some years ago, my husband and I were invited to attend a Good Friday Greek Orthodox service. Since my husband is half-Greek, he and I were both interested in finding out more about the other half of his heritage.
We entered a small, Greek Orthodox church on Good Friday and I particularly remember feeling the hard, wooden pews when we sat down. The pews grew harder as the priest read pages and pages of Scripture and with any slouching on my part, the pew dug into my spine. I sat up straighter. The priest read on in Latin and Greek, and the words flowed around me, ornate and serious.
The mood of the church grew more somber with each hour and I began to remember how Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” For us. For me.
Candles were lit and passed to each person and we stood. The priest threw open the doors and we faced the growing darkness. The entire church began a funeral march, following Jesus’ funeral bier, which was overflowing with flowers and crosses. We all held candles and walked in silence, weighted with emotion. The evening grew full dark around us as we followed the bier, holding our candles. A verse came to my mind as we walked. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
After we had marched for some time, the bier stopped in front of the church doors and was held high. To re-enter the church, we all had to step under the funeral bier symbolizing that we were now ‘buried with Him.’ One by one, we stepped under the bier and my eyes burned as I did so. Never had I felt the complete seriousness, the weight of what that actually meant, until now.
We all then quietly and somberly left the church, mourning Jesus’ death as His followers must have done, so many years ago.
Easter Sunday dawned bright and clear and we were invited to experience the other half of the Greek Easter– the celebration. This is usually held at a member’s home after church, who has a lot of space for anyone and everyone. We stopped for a moment at the edge of the party to take it all in. Tables and tables overflowed with food and drink and children ran freely about. Smiles flashed and people laughed easily. Everyone was family and welcome. It was almost overwhelming. As I sat back in my lawn chair, holding my plate, I began to understand. The darkness and despair and stench of death were now over. He had risen. And since He lives, so do we.
Matthew 28:6, Isaiah 53:3, Mark 16:6, John 11:25