Easter on way for the Orthodox

Source: Albuquerque Journal

By Andrew Estocin / Albuquerque resident on Mon, Apr 15, 2013

Easter is a distant memory for most New Mexicans. Look down the aisle of your local store and one finds only a clearance bin of damaged Easter bunnies mixed in with threads of plastic green grass. Yellow marshmallow Peeps are an endangered species on the candy aisle. Meanwhile, greeting card companies remind us repeatedly that Mother’s Day, graduation and Cinco de Mayo are just around the corner.

However, for New Mexico’s 4,000-plus Orthodox Christians preparations for Easter, more commonly known as Pascha, are in full swing.

Traditional foods are being prepared, raucous dinners with family and friends arranged, and life has been put on hold for the upcoming week to attend ancient church services which pass down traditions that have been in place for nearly 2,000 years.

Easter comes twice in 2013, and the doors of every Orthodox church in New Mexico are open as the most ancient of Christian journeys known as Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, April 28, and ends with the proclamation of “Christ is Risen!” on Sunday, May 5.

Ask any Orthodox Christian, and he or she will tell you that the ancient spiritual way handed down to us is not something to be guarded but instead shared in abundance. The unique calendar calculation of Easter in 2013 provides a unique opportunity to do so.

Orthodox Christians have for centuries used a different calendar to observe Easter.

In the United States, nearly all Christians follow the Gregorian calendar established in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. Orthodox Christians, however, use the more ancient Julian calendar established by Julius Caesar in 42 B.C.

The contrast between the two calendars is sometimes very great. This is true in 2013 when the majority of Christians celebrated Easter on March 31st while Orthodox Christians must wait until May 5th.

Orthodox Christians are a small but vital part of New Mexico’s culture. We find our roots in early 20th Century European immigration and 21st Century stories of conversion.

Most Americans identify Orthodox Christianity with an ethnic group such as Greeks or Russians. However, in New Mexico, Orthodox Christians are a diverse group that prays and worships in English.

Orthodox Christianity has existed since the time of Jesus’ apostles and has weathered every variety of upheaval, persecution and controversy with its tradition intact. Walk into your local Orthodox church and you will glimpse a spiritual world that has its roots in ancient Byzantium.

This may give one the impression that the church is simply a fossil trapped in a world that no longer exists. However, this could not be further from the truth. Orthodox Christianity is not a museum of history but a way of living that seeks a connection with what Christians have believed and practiced throughout the centuries.

Megachurches, worships bands and self-help books are foreign to us. Instead we look to centuries-old worship services, prayers and learning to renew our lives.

What New Mexico’s Orthodox Christians most desire is to share our unique heritage with those around us. We are like anxious children with an exciting story to tell – and there is no better story to share than that of Holy Week.

In a world where religion is growing indistinguishable from popular culture, New Mexico’s Orthodox Christians invite others to celebrate a different Christianity that is mysteriously both ancient and new. It is a tradition where there are no Easter bunnies, the eggs are bright red, and the festive soup served after Easter church services might just have the eyeball of a lamb stewing in it!

So as the margaritas flow and mariachis sing this Cinco De Mayo, don’t be surprised if you see Orthodox Christians walking around exhausted and overjoyed in their finest Easter clothes. If you do, please say hello. We have an exciting story to share!

Andrew Estocin is a life-long Orthodox Christian. He received his theological degree from Fordham University and attends St. George Greek Orthodox Church.


 

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