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Happy Orthodox Easter

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,  but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen!”

–from Luke chapter 24

Why Easter, and not Christmas, is Central for Orthodox Christians

In Western Christianity the emphasis of the yearly worship cycles is on the Nativity, rather than the Resurrection. The reasons for this are deeply embedded in the differences between the theological traditions of the Eastern and Western churches…

By Valeria Z. Nollan

In this year of 2018 Orthodox Christians around the world celebrate Pascha (Easter) on April 8 according to the older Julian Calendar; Western Christians celebrate the Easter holiday on April 1 on the newer Gregorian Calendar.  This represents a time of great joy for all Christians, and provides a worthy occasion for considering why for Orthodox Christians Pascha is at the center of the liturgical calendar, while for Western Christians (especially Protestants) the Nativity / Christmas is most prominent.

Throughout the year, with few exceptions, the main service of Orthodoxy—the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom—includes musical reminders of the Resurrection. In every liturgy the choir sings two hymns to the Resurrection, both being in the tone (specific core melody) of the week. These are the Resurrection troparion (тропарь) and the Resurrection kontakion (кондак). Both the troparion and kontakion represent Greek poetic forms of the early centuries of Eastern Christianity whose function in the church service evolved through the ages. Thus for the faithful, in each Divine Liturgy all year long there are at least two sustained reminders of the Resurrection.

In Western Christianity the emphasis of the yearly worship cycles is on the Nativity, rather than the Resurrection. The reasons for this are deeply embedded in the differences between the theological traditions of the Eastern and Western churches. These differences go all the way back to the first millennium, when church doctrine deriving from the Eastern Roman and Western Roman Empires was more or less unified (although differences were beginning to emerge). Still, ancient Orthodoxy and Catholicism shared a theological basis that maintained the Resurrection as the center of religious experience and meaning.