Three speakers from Hellenic New Zealand Congress shared the meaning and importance of Greek Orthodox Easter, Pascha. The full audience included several members of the Greek orthodox community. A special guest was Archbishop His Eminence, Metropolitan Myron of NZ.
Dr David Philips, President of HNZC, outlined the aims and purpose of the Congress and then introduced the speakers.
Dr Dimitrios Mitsotakis shared his childhood memories of Easter in Crete. He remembers kite-flying and family groups picnicking. Then the fasting for 40 days, attending Church nearly every day, the soup to break the fast –“kids hated it”. But Holy Week brought presents from God Parents, fireworks and celebrations in the streets after midnight on the Saturday. Then joyful Sunday with shared feasting: roast lamb, red eggs and cookies.
Stella Bares (QSO) is a respected member of the Greek Orthodox community and an accepted authority on Greek Cuisine. She spoke about Easter traditions around the home: cleaning the house, baking and the fasting for Lent – no meat, dairy, alcohol or oil. Regional differences among Communities exist. St Lazarus Day and Palm Sunday are important in the Orthodox calendar. Holy Week brings special rituals: cookies and sweet bread are baked on Thursday and boiled eggs are dyed red to symbolise Christ’s blood. On Friday morning the Epitafios (bier of Christ) is decorated with flowers in preparation for the important processions.
Father George Kanellis is the Greek Orthodox priest from Auckland. He has also been involved with missionary work in the Pacific. He spoke about the liturgical practices of the Church. Pascha is calculated according to the Julian calendar. It happens (usually) later than in Western Christianity (this year ends 2nd May). For Orthodox Greeks culture and faith are entwined. Lent is the time for spiritual renewal achieved through prayer, meditation, reading Scripture and attending church. The Triodion is the Service book that guides liturgical practice. Also important are the Feast days, especially the Feast of the Annunciation. The Resurrection Service happens at midnight on Holy Saturday. We were all invited to attend this.
Thanks to the Friends Committee members who managed the busy evening and to HNZC members for the delicious Greek Easter treats we enjoyed. Thank you Father George for that moving singing. Finally, special thanks to Stella and to Father George’s children for preparing the gift bags – each attendee received one. It contained a paper icon, cookie and red egg.