EASTER PASCHAL CANDLES
Special candles made for Easter are called "labatha" (lah-BAH-thah) and are often given as gifts to children from their parents or God-parents. These candles can be lavishly decorated with favorite children's heroes or storybook characters, and may be as much as three feet tall, but the candle itself is usually white, light blue or pink. These candles are only used for one Easter midnight service.
On Saturday everyone goes to church late in the evening, carrying with them unlit candles. At midnight all lights are extinguished and churches are lit only by the Eternal Flame on the altar. When the clock passes midnight, the priest announces the resurrection of Christ ("Christos anesti" ~ Christ is risen) and passes the flame to the people to light their candles of the Holy Flame taken from Christ's nativity cave in Jerusalem. The flame is then passed from person to person, and it isn't long before the church and courtyard are filled with flickering candlelight. The night air is filled with the singing of the Byzantine Chant "Christos Anesti," and the "fili tis Agapis" (kiss of Agape) and wishes are exchanged. As is the custom, as soon as "Christos Anesti" is called out, church bells ring joyously non-stop, ships in ports all over Greece sound their horns, floodlights are lit on large buildings, and great and small displays of fireworks and noisemakers are set off. After this, everybody goes home for a meal - the fast is over.
It is the custom to carry the Eternal Flame home and use it to make the sign of the cross on the door frame with the soot, to protect the house for the coming year The smoke cross is left there throughout the year, symbolizing that the light of the Resurrection has blessed the home. The candles are used to light icon candelabra, and are put on the table for the midnight meal. The sight of hundreds of candle flames moving from churches to homes on that night is beautiful, indeed.
According to ancient liturgical tradition, the Paschal light is allowed to shine continuously throughout the Great Fifty Days until it is finally extinguished on Ascension Day. After that, it is removed from its place next to the altar and placed near the baptismal font. It is lighted at baptisms to remind Christians that in baptism we are crucified and raised with Jesus (Romans 6:3-5).
Of all the weight and pain in life,
That word is Love."
~ by Socrates
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