From RERC News
Easter - Bright Resurrection of Christ - is the most solemn, happy and great event of the Christian Church. It is called the Celebration of Celebrations and the Triumph of Triumphs. The Resurrection of Christ is the victory over the death, which gave people hope for salvation and immortality.
Easter (from Ancient Hebrew "Passover" - passage) is the most ancient of Church holidays, which was already celebrated in the apostles' time. Seven weeks of Lent precede the Bright Resurrection of Christ. It reminds us about the forty-day fast of the Saviour in the desert. It also brings us to Passion Week and then to the joy of Bright the Resurrection. Passion Week is the last week of the Lent, which consists of 6 days. It starts on Monday and ends on Saturday, proceeding Easter Sunday. During this week believers are supposed to follow especially strict fasting in honor of Christ's Passion and for the worthy inner preparation for His Bright Resurrection.
Every day of Passion Week is called Holy. This is because of the great events being commemorated by the Church. Passions are the sufferings that Christ underwent on the Cross for the sins of mankind. This is the week when He was betrayed, accused, led up to Calvary, crucified and buried, and so given the name of Passion Week. During these days the whole life of Christ passes in front of believers, all miracles performed by Him on Earth, and all His teaching.
On this day Orthodox people remember the fruitless fig tree which dried out to the root, as an image of a person dying unrepentant.
The Church remembers the parable about 10 maidens, wise and foolish. By these memories Church guides believers to spiritual vigilance and expedient use of the abilities and power given to us.
The Church remembers the sinner who anointed Christ's feet with expensive aromatic oil as an embodiment of the endless gratitude, burning love and repentance to the Merciful.
Maundy and Great Thursday
The remembrance of the Mystical Supper. On this day believers remember the events that precede the voluntary procession of the Saviour to His Passion, the celebration of the last Passover supper with the washing of the feet and the establishment of the Sacrament of the Eucharist by Jesus Christ and the betrayal of Judas.
The Church remembers the death of the Lord on the Cross. The Shroud of Christ - an icon on which Jesus Christ is pictured lying in the tomb - is brought out into the middle of the church.
On Holy Saturday the Church remembers the descent of Christ into Hell to all people who died before Him, to save them. On this day the dark vestments in Church are changed for light.
At midnight, before Easter Sunday, the Matins is served. The temple is decorated and the clergy put on the most beautiful vestments. A ceremonial procession with banners and icons leaves the temple and goes around it. At this moment the doors of the temple are closed, so the temple resembles the tomb of Christ. The procession stops in front of the closed doors and the priest starts singing joyful Easter hymn: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and giving life to those in the tombs". After this hymn, the doors of the temple are opened and the procession enters the temple with joyful singing and lighted candles. During the service almost nothing is read but sung by the choir, the priest continually censes temple and greets the people with: "Christ is risen", to which the people respond with: "Truly he is risen". The Day of Holy Easter for a Christian is the celebration of Christ's victory over evil, the victory of Life over sin and death. After the Resurrection of Christ death is seen as a temporary phase, a sleep in waiting for the future life.
Preparation for Easter begins on Maundy Thursday. On this Thursday people paint eggs. This tradition goes back to the days of Mary Magdalene who presented a red egg to Emperor Tiberias in Rome and said: "Christ is Risen!". The egg symbolises the resurrection of Christ, and the red colour indicates that Christ saved humankind with his own blood. On Good Friday people bake Easter bread (kulich) and paskha. Paskha (a creamy cheese cake) is made in the form of a pyrarnid and symbolises the Tomb of Christ. Kulich is a rich sweet bread, baked in a tall mould and decorated with white sugar icing. On Easter Saturday people go to the Church to bless their kulich, eggs and pasidla. All food is placed on a big plate, covered with a specially embroidered towel and is decorated with flowers. The breaking of the fast begins with eating the blessed eggs, kulich, and paskha. In the past, this was a very close family tradition and nobody was invited. Today, on the contrary, relatives and friends are welcomed and an abundant table is prepared.