Pascha, Miracles and Church Fires
Welcome to “This Week in Orthodoxy”, the world’s only online video newscast focused on events in the life of the Orthodox Church. I’m Emmy Louvaris. These are some of the stories making headlines this week.
- Orthodox Christians Observe Pascha
- China’s first Orthodox priest in sixty years
- Thousands flock to ‘miracle’ icon at south suburban church
- Fires around Orthodox Easter torch 3 churches in 3 cities
Orthodox Christians Observe Pascha
More than 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide celebrated Pascha this past Sunday on May 1st; celebrated almost a month after the Western observation of Easter.
The Orthodox date is based on a decree of the Council of Nicaea, Asia Minor, held in 325 A.D. According to this decree, Easter must be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon of the vernal equinox but always after the Hebrew Passover to maintain the Biblical sequence of events of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.
In Jerusalem, The Great Hours of Holy Friday were read at the Monastery of the Praetorium, the Prison of Jesus Christ.
From there, a procession began through the Via Dolorosa, the “Way of Grief”, to Golgotha in commemoration of the fact that, once delivered by Pilate to the soldiers and the crowd, the Lord walked down this street carrying His cross, until Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry it for Him.
The procession was led by Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, followed by priests, monks, nuns and a crowd of pilgrims in profound piety. The procession arrived at Golgotha, in the Court of the Church of the Resurrection.
In an annual Paschal ritual sacred to Orthodox Christians, the “holy fire” was distributed at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Great Saturday April 30, 2016.
A key component in Orthodox Christian celebrations of Pascha, the appearance of the miraculous flames, the “holy fire” has been recorded in texts dating back to the fourth century.
This year for the sake of safety and security, Israeli authorities requested to limit the number of worshippers in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and was attended by heightened security.
Once the miracle of the “holy fire” has arrived it is promptly distributed to Orthodox Christian countries around the world.
Here’s Archbishop Demetrios, spiritual leader of 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians in America within his Paschal message.
China’s first Orthodox priest in sixty years
HARBIN, China–His red and gold vestments bathed in candlelight, the first mainland Chinese Orthodox priest ordained for six decades led an Easter service on Sunday — one of the most surprising fruits of warming ties between Moscow and Beijing.
Alexander Yu Shi said prayers in the Church Slavonic language and in Mandarin beside the Church of Holy Protection in the northeastern city of Harbin, surrounded by local worshippers.
“It is a happy day. We are welcoming the resurrection,” he said. “And for the Eastern Orthodox Church in Harbin, it’s also a resurrection.”
The small and elderly Orthodox community — mostly descended from Chinese and Russians who intermarried in the city’s cosmopolitan heyday a century ago — lacked a priest for 15 years.
Yu, a soft-spoken former bank manager, is the first ever Chinese to have studied at an Orthodox seminary with backing from China’s avowedly atheist Communist Party.
“With the help of the governments of both countries, I was able to learn theology systematically,” he said.
Shi, who has Buddhist grandparents, converted while studying business in Moscow in the 1990s. He returned a few years ago to enroll in the St Petersburg theological seminary.
Ordained last year, he led the most important festival in the church’s calendar for the first time.
Thousands flock to ‘miracle’ icon at Chicago suburban church
Thousands across the Chicago area are flocking to a southwest suburban parish to see what they believe to be a different miracle. Since July, tiny droplets of fragrant oil have trickled down an icon of St. John the Baptist in front of the altar at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Homer Glen. Parishioners believe the oil has healing properties and that its origins are a blessing from God. “The first thing out of my mouth was ‘What do I do?’ ” said the Rev. Sotirios “Sam” Dimitriou, the parish priest. “You don’t expect anything like this. It’s breathtaking. It’s so powerful to see such an act of God before your eyes.”
Whether it’s an act of God or a chemical reaction, no one really knows. And frankly, few in the Greek Orthodox community care. A rational explanation is irrelevant if what seems to be a supernatural event draws people toward God, clergy say.
The oil, which parishioners believe to be myrrh, exudes from the icon’s halo, wings, hands and beard. Collected every week by a reservoir of cotton at the base of the icon, Dimitriou regularly extracts the oil into a pitcher, then saturates cotton balls, which he seals in plastic bags for parishioners to take home and share with their loved ones. So far, he has handed out more than 5,000 samples — a handy way to track the flow of pilgrims.
Fires around Orthodox Easter torch 3 churches in 3 cities
Investigators in three cities, New York, Melbourne, and Sydney, in Australia are looking into large fires at Orthodox churches that occurred around the Paschal celebrations causing widespread damage but only minor injuries.
The historic Serbian Orthodox church of St. Sava in New York City was engulfed in flames by a fire that erupted around 7pm Easter evening. Going viral on social media outlets, the images of flames bellowing and shooting through windows were dramatic. CBS reports, New York Fire Department investigators haven’t given any indication, as of yet to what started the blaze. Only the church caretaker was treated for smoke inhalation after rushing into the Sanctuary to try and put out the fire out, but could not as the blaze was already out of control.
Fire Dept. Commissioner called it a very sad day. “No one has been injured, there is no one reported missing, and that’s the good news for today. The bad news is this church has been destroyed by fire”. The city designated the church a “city landmark” in 1968.
St. Sava, formerly known as Trinity Chapel was designed in 1850 by celebrated architect Richard M. Upjohn in the Gothic Revival style and was originally built to serve the “uptown” Episcopal community consecrated in 1855.
It was purchased from the Episcopal Diocese in New York in 1943 and consecrated the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava in New York in 1944.
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That brings another edition of “This Week in Orthodoxy,” to a close. Wishing you a Blessed Bright Week, for everyone here in our OCN studios, I’m Emmy Louvaris. Let’s go forth in peace.
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