The Great Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ – Easter or the Holy Pascha, represents the starting point of Orthodox understanding of the sanctification of time. It stands at the center of Orthodox liturgical life, at the center of that segment of time that the Orthodox Church calls a year. We are talking about an experience that has its origins in apostolic times.
In the world governed by time and death, resurrection becomes an expression of life without end. Many religions and philosophies confess ‘the immortality of the soul’, but the Church differs from all these since it understands immortality not as an inexplicable form of ‘survival’ after death. It is, rather, understood as a matter of overcoming death through the relationship with God. As far as the Church is concerned death is a form of separation from God, a rejection of association with God, a denial of life as being love and a communion of love.
Resurrection of Christ does not concern only Christ himself. This event occurred for our sake and concerns each and every one of us. In this world such as it is, in a single moment in history, there appeared a Somebody who stood above death while remaining within the framework of our time. God and man, God-man (Theanthropos) Jesus Christ, pulled human nature through death and resurrection and by doing so opened our path to eternity. All those who make God rather than created nature foundation of their existence, all those that grow into His Body – the Church, prepare themselves to participate in the joy and exultation of the Kingdom of Christ. This participation in joy starts already in this life only to achieve its fullness in the one that is yet to come. Christian life is the life of resurrection, and resurrection itself is the focal point of Orthodoxy, the very essence of its entire experience. This is why the Orthodox world regards Easter as the happiest feast of all, the Feast of all feasts, and every Sunday of the year is dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ.
Easter is celebrated each year at a different date, but always on Sunday. The day of celebration is connected to a calculation in relation to the spring equinox and the first subsequent full moon in order to correspond to the 14. day of Nissan (month in the Jewish calendar) which was the day when Christ died (Good or Holy Friday), and the first following Sunday.
At the occasion of Easter matins the priest and the faithful go around the church in a procession three times, while church bells ring. The procession then halts in front of the closed door of the church. After censing the faithful and the closed door, and after the troparion ‘Christ is Risen’ has been sung, the priest enters the church bearing the Cross and the Gospel Book in his arms. He then walks through the Royal Door, the main entrance on the altar-screen, into the altar section of the church. The faithful follow the priest into a well-illuminated church and, after matins and the service of first hour, the Easter Liturgy is being celebrated. It is the most joyous service of the year. The faithful take the Holy Eucharist, the Great Lent is over, and the first food that the faithful will usually take to break the fast would be painted Easter eggs.