Holy Thursday is the day the martyrdom of Christ takes place.
On the evening, the Holy Passion service of the reading of the Twelve Gospels is conducted. Faithfull go over every moment of agony, pain, suffer and humiliation Christ went through. The question by the Sanhedrin, the trial by Pontius Pilate, scourging, the mocking as the King of the Jews…. The trial is followed by the ascencion to Calvary (traditionally called Via Dolorosa and commonly known as Golgotha). At the end of the road the ultimate sacrifice: the crucifixion. This is the most spiritual moment in the Holy Week. The lights go out and the words of the priest as he exits the altar, with Christ on the cross, vibrate the church:
“Today is placed on wood, He who placed water on the earth.
With thorns they crown the King of Angels.
Is enclosed in mendacious purple robe He who enclosed earth in clouds.
Condescends a spat He who liberated Adam in the River Jordan.
Is fasten with nails, the Bridegroom of Church.
Is punctured with a spear, the Son of the Virgin.
We kneel before your Passion Christ…..”
I am probably giving a very poor translation here, since this is written in ancient Greek, but I believe you get the picture.
It is a custom that this day we dye red eggs and take them to the church for blessing. Those eggs will be chinked after the Resurrection and are the trade mark of Pasha. The egg it’s self symbolizes the resurrection in a manner, the life cracking out of the tomb – they are colored red from the blood Jesus shed on the cross. Now days we have all sorts of colors, techniques and decoration material for the Easter eggs but let’s face it: Jesus may be a king but his blood isn’t blue… Another thing my grandfather – a refugee from Asia Minor – use to do, is to hang outside a piece of red fabric, also symbolizing the Holy Passion.
After the service is over the faithful stay in church all of the night, as we do on every funeral. In my village we light fires on the church’s front yard and women bring fasting food to share with everyone: halva, olives, nuts and bread. My husband’s grandmother – also a refugee from Asia Minor – has a custom every year to distribute small walnut breads. It’s worth staying to the wake, just for these. During the night the people who stayed –mostly the women- will decorate the Sepulcher, a bier symbolizing the Tomb of Christ, with the flowers they brought earlier to the service.
Next post in this series: “Great and Holy Friday”
After Holy Thursday comes Holy Friday… well thats easy to remember!