Orthodox Easter arrives tomorrow
- SEATTLE TIMES
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Orthodox Easter arrives tomorrow
By Janet I. Tu
Seattle Times staff reporter
While most of the world's 1.9 billion Christians marked Easter in March,
Orthodox Christians worldwide are looking forward to celebrating Easter tomorrow.
And for members of Seattle's St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, the state's
largest Orthodox parish, this celebration of rebirth has special meaning in a
year marked by changes on both local and regional levels.
In the past year, St. Demetrios' pastor for the past decade retired from
full-time ministry. And Metropolitan Anthony, head of the Greek Orthodox Church's
San Francisco Diocese, which covers the western U.S., died in December, and
was succeeded by Metropolitan Gerasimos.
"I think it's kind of historic that we've had, right down to the parish
level, the kinds of changes that we've had this year," said Paul Plumis, 56, a
school-district facilities manager and lifelong member of St. Demetrios.
St. Demetrios parish was started by Greek immigrant families in 1916 and
moved into its current home in Seattle's Montlake neighborhood in 1963. Over the
years, the parish grew with the influx of Greek immigrants. Now, the 850-family
parish has a large number of second-, third-, and fourth-generation families,
mixed-marriage families and converts.
"We have the whole gamut of a church in transition," Plumis said.
The parish is also more youth-oriented now, part of the legacy imparted by
Metropolitan Anthony. Parish youths take part in a diocese-wide Greek folk-dance
ministry started by Anthony. Several years ago, St. Demetrios hired a
director for its youth programs — a first for the parish. The church now has youth
groups, retreats, camp programs and Bible study for kids.
Father Photios Dumont, 45, who last year came to St. Demetrios from Castro
Valley, Calif., said one of his main goals is to unify and organize the large,
diverse parish "so that people feel connected and want to be involved," while
also raising their level of spirituality and dedication to God. Dumont
succeeded the Rev. John Angelis as pastor at St. Demetrios.
How to respond to demographic changes, as well as contemporary issues, is
part of the challenge facing the Orthodox Church in the United States.
"The Orthodox faith has certain dogmas and traditions but is flexible enough
to adapt to contemporary issues," said parish council president Tom Leonidas,
Jr., 46. For example, he said, churches now hold evening programs in response
to growing numbers of two-income families.
At the same time, many love the traditions of the church.
"Nothing has changed in 2000 years," said lifelong parishioner Mary
Dallas-Smith, 71, of Kirkland. "Nor should it, in my humble opinion."
The Great Schism
Many rituals and liturgies in the Orthodox Church date back to the beginnings
of Christianity. The Christian Church split into the Eastern and Western
church traditions after the Great Schism in 1054. The Western tradition became the
Roman Catholic Church, while the Eastern tradition became the Orthodox
Church, which rejected the primacy and authority of the pope, among other
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is divided into 15 autonomous churches
worldwide, largely along national, ethnic and cultural lines, the date of
Easter each year is a complex calculation. It takes into account the date of
Passover, the first full moon of the vernal equinox, and the Julian calendar. While
most of the Western world switched to Pope Gregory's calendar, created in the
16th century, Orthodox churches still use the Julian calendar established
shortly before the first century.
Each day of Holy Week has special meaning for Orthodox Christians.
On Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, palm fronds are blessed and
distributed, commemorating Christ's entrance into Jerusalem. On Holy Wednesday, the
faithful are anointed with oil to heal the body and soul. On Holy Thursday
evening, the 12 lessons of the Gospel are read. On Great Friday, the body of
Christ is symbolically taken down from the cross and buried.
On Holy Saturday evening, all lights in Orthodox churches are extinguished,
representing the darkness that fell upon the earth. The priest comes forth with
a lighted candle, chanting "Come, receive the light, the light of the
Resurrection." Each congregation member then receives the light for his or her own
candle, and a procession moves outdoors, where the Gospel proclaiming the
Resurrection of Christ is read and the hymn "Christ is Risen" is sung.
On Sunday, the Gospel of the Resurrection is read in many languages to
emphasize the universality of Christ's teachings. "The basis of the Orthodox Church
is the resurrection," Plumis said. "The ultimate goal for why we're here on
Earth is to meet the resurrected Lord."
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