Orthodox Easter ceremony in Russia’s biggest cathedral
According to Christian belief, Jesus was resurrected from the dead three days after his crucifixion. Christians celebrate this resurrection on Easter Day (also known as Easter Sunday). In Russia, Easter is the biggest religious holiday culminating with the end of the seven-week season of Lent – a period of fasting, prayer, and penance.
Millions of Orthodox Christians across Russia turned their eyes tonight to the country’s main Cathedral – Christ the Saviour – where the Easter service began on the eve of Easter Sunday.
The words “Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed!” rang out at the doors of the Moscow cathedral at midnight, following the traditional procession around the cathedral. The ceremony was led by Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. This is the first Easter service held by Kirill as Russia’s Patriarch.
People had been queuing for hours to enter the cathedral and light their candles from the Holy Fire. The flame had been brought from Jerusalem, where it appeared on Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in what is deemed an annual miracle by believers. Every year, the Holy Fire is brought to Russia – its first stop was the country’s main Christ the Saviour Cathedral. Afterwards, it will be delivered to destinations across Russia, including the North Pole.
For the first time, this year the Easter service at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral was held in 18 languages, including Chinese – to signify the unity of all Orthodox Christians across the world.
The list of VIP guests attending the service included President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Easter Sunday is the main religious holiday for Orthodox Christians in Russia. It was especially eagerly awaited by those who have been fasting for 40 days. Finally, believers are able to feast on everything they have avoided during Lent, including dairy products, eggs and meat.
Long tables laden with delicious festive foods could be seen on Saturday in churches throughout Russia. People bring these homemade treats for the priests to bless. The ‘kulichi’ – traditional Russian Easter cakes, and the coloured eggs – everything is beautifully decorated.
Some priests are concerned though that people are becoming more interested in the details of the celebration, rather than the essence of the holiday, which is about remembering Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection.