culture - Orthodox Eastern on Crete
The orthodox calendar shoes us eastern-Sunday always after the first full moon in spring. So it’s a moving celebration. It can come together with English eastern but this is not so often. Eastern in Greece is the highest celebration.
Preparing for eastern:
Of course eastern is the centre of attraction these days. Our church gets air-condition this year! Think about it as you like – to me it seems a bit strange. The electricity still doesn’t work and so far it edges out some of the chairs for the prayers and nothing else. Also the church was whitening inside and outside and this looks wonderful. Because with my 168 cm height I seem to be long in Cretan eyes I have had to clean everything what’s higher than their heads. So I balance on the back of the carved chairs to reach the high hanging chandelier and all the gold and bronze things. The carpets where cleaned outside of the church with boring slowly dropping water from a garden hose and with a lot washing powder scrub clean until no dirt existing else. After his they have to dry – there is plenty of time left.
Not every, but still many women take part of the preparations for the official celebrations. Since some days ago Maria sits in front of her house with a velvet cloth on her knee knitting little holy figures with a golden stitch. Bows and tablecloth examined and, if in good shape, ironing. What means “good shape”? Follow intensive discussions - or better some new? But there are still plenty of things to do! Other woman makes cakes, special eastern cakes like Kalitzounies in huge quantity – even weeks after eastern they follows you everywhere you will be invited. Who shell eat all that? But urge on in fear it’s not enough… they go on baking like their grandmothers before.
The church is decorated with all the violent bows and tablecloth. Bows around the icons, the chandelier, the candles and the altar – it really looks very nice and beautiful! And of course flowers, flowers around the icons and in front of the altar. Everything is shining and twinkles and smells good and is waiting for the eastern celebrations.
Eastern – Sunday before eastern
“Entry into Jerusalem”, Palm Sunday
Jesus sits on a tired donkey with his apostles behind him in, all in opposite to the urbanites of Jerusalem. The urbanites hold palm benches in their hands as a symbol of believing to welcome Jesus. Children give emotions to the scene cutting palm benches and feeding the donkey. Some of them lay down their clothes so that Jesus can do his last steps into the city more comfortable. It’s a happy story so far.
In the evening the Cretan goes to church to celebrate this story. The pope wears a black robe with golden trimmings.
Eastern – Monday, Holy Week
Eastern – Tuesday, Holy Week
”The ten virgins” (Mat. 25, 1-13)
Eastern – Wednesday, Holy Week
“The anointing of The Lord”
Eastern –Maundy Tuesday, Holy Week
“The Lords supper” (Mat. 26,17-29)
In the evening is made a long ceremony. I wasn’t there, please wait until next year for more information.
Eastern – Good Friday
”The Pains of The Lord and crucifixion” (Mat. 27, 45-56)
The bells ring all day over slowly and in a very sad way. Some of the youngster in the village prepares already first saluting guns, others collecting old wood, fixing it in a mass around the gallows where a stuffed doll - Judas hangs already. All over the morning women and girls decorates with flowers the Epitaph – a kind of table with 4 arms on each corner coming together at a higher point. The carpets are put down and everywhere are fresh flowers spreeded.
In the evening about 19:30 everyone meets in the church. The liturgy is done mostly by songs – reciprocal singing from men and women. Four virgins in white appear and find place at the four corners from the Epitaph. Now everyone of the audience holds a burning candle in the hand. The pope blesses first the Epitaph and then the people with fumed incense, little bells ringing while he’s shaking it. The crowd stands so closed together but one by one will be blessed by the Pope. No one’s left out. Singing goes on, endless praying goes to heaven until the pope appears again, now dressed in a golden robe. Outside it’s dark now and with a bottle of pleasant-smelling water the pope sprinkles the heads of the audience – you can see he really likes that to do - everyone will get his shower! Now four strong men holds the Epitaph on their shoulders carry it around the village. The people follow each one with the still burning candle in his hand. Again the pope makes a stop at the four corners of the village, blessing it. Going back, the four men stand with the Epitaph at the entrance of the church so that everyone has to bow his head to go underneath back into the church. Have a wish now because it becomes true! Now Jesus has taken over all our sins. The people shaking hands, chatting a little bit and slowly slowly they find way back to home.
Eastern – Saturday, Holy Week
”Burial of The Lord” and burning Judas
In the morning women comes together again. They decorating the church; violent bows changes with white and red bows. The Epitaph is back to the storeroom until next year – every women takes away some of it’s flowers and the stalks of the carnations are very popular – you can put it right into the earth an with a little luck and don’t forget to water it every day it grows and became a plant again.
My favourite Eastern begins today evening. About 22:00 people comes to church, some other little later but be there at least about 23:00. The church is jam-packed, people stand also outside – anyone with two legs is here now. Again the pope prays with us – most of the words ends to “ooonn” (genitive ending! of the Lord, for example) and sets me in trance-like condition (because the liturgy is spoken in Ancient Greek even the people don’t understand each word) and I thing it’s not necessary to understand every word but to feel it and let move your heart.
Judas burning now – think about it how you like it. They placed the burning Judas is placed under a grid pylon – anyway, until now never ever has happened something. Think positive. Kids opens firework and its horror everyway and I don’t believe myself any more that this seems to be my most loved ceremony. No, no more.
At midnight light goes of – darkness around and everywhere. No traffic light, nothing. Suddenly the crowd gets move, the pope – with a candle light in his hand – clear a path through towards the door of the church - knocking on heavens door! – because it’s closed and no one can came in. Darkness and closed, you understand? “Open the church” he shouts loud and after some efforts the door opens, cheering from the people and they start to push and press to light the own candle from him, to take the holy light at home. Many of them will try to keep it burning all over the year. Wonderful and everything is allowed. It was me myself, driving alone in my car back home with a burning candle in my hand. To change the gears was a bit difficult, but I made it – reached home while fire still burns. Now families comes together eating eastern soup with innards and all the cakes they have made before.
Eastern – Sunday
“Resurrection of The Lord”
Mostly the weather is fine, sunshine warms up and there is nothing against a real good barbeque outside. Families comes together again or visiting each other having fun with the grilled lamp (also head and tail) – since ours it’s going round and round over red-hot coal. There is plenty of food, talks, something to drink and songs. New visitors arriving and the house women offers everything from A to Z again and again – the table bending under all that – and other visitors used the situation to leave, of course under loud protest of the host but for sure, we will meet again next year again.