The ancient and hallowed traditions of Orthodox Christianity were fully displayed at the Evangelismos of Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church in Philadelphia this past weekend. On the night of Saturday, May 4th, the faithful gathered to celebrate the Holy and Great Saturday / Midnight Service commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As the clock struck midnight, the church was enveloped in darkness. Then, a single light emerged from the altar, symbolizing the descent of the Holy Spirit into the tomb and Christ’s glorious Resurrection from the dead. The crowd, filled with enthusiasm and faith, passed the flame from candle to candle, illuminating the entire church in a brilliant glow. This collective act of faith and celebration truly embodied the spirit of the community.

The liturgy was a beautiful and solemn affair, filled with age-old Byzantine hymns and prayers of Pascha (Easter), accompanied by ringing bells, banners, and fragrant incense. As the liturgy concluded, the atmosphere in the church transformed into one of joy and excitement. The faithful emerged from the church into the night, their faces lit up with happiness, greeting each other with the ancient Paschal salutation of “Christos Anesti!”

The celebrations continued onto Sunday with uniquely Greek Paschal customs like the traditional cracking of the redyed eggs and feasting on lamb and other traditional foods.

For the Orthodox Christians of Philadelphia, this holy night was a transcendent experience of the pivotal event at the heart of Christian faith – the miraculous overcoming of death through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. As they say, “Alithos Anesti – Truly He is Risen!”