Away from home: Celebrating Orthodox Easter at The Lay Centre

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Away from home: Celebrating Orthodox Easter at The Lay Centre

By Lay Centre staff

ROME — The Lay Centre community will hold its second Easter celebration April 19. The community currently includes some students who celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar. 

Eliza Kydoniefs is a Greek Orthodox laywoman from Athens and a student at the Pontifical Urban University. She was unable to return home for Easter due to the coronavirus lockdown in Italy, but feels The Lay Centre community has become a real family for her. 

Kydoniefs shared how preparing for Easter under lockdown was like nothing she had ever experienced before.

"Living this Holy Week in self-isolation, bombarded by the media with news of sickness and death is far from everything we have experienced or imagined so far. And yet, the media offers us the opportunity to take part in the mystery of the holy life, death and resurrection of Christ,” she said.

She said she has been reflecting on an article by Father Maurizio Gronchi in L'Osservatore Romano, in which he said this Easter is not very different from the one the disciples lived.

“Instead of being present to the Master under the cross, they met for the last time for the farewell dinner, then fled in fear. Not even that same evening, before his arrest, did they have the strength to stay awake with him,” she said. “It is true, we are not celebrating as always in our churches. We are not together because of this virus. But, we, unlike the first disciples, are already testimonies of his Resurrection.”

Kydoniefs admitted that it has been difficult not to be “affected, afraid and worried” for ourselves, family and friends during this global pandemic, “but this is the moment to stay awake” with Jesus.

“Stay awake and rejoice, for the Resurrection is to come,” she said. “Take courage by his words according to John: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid’” (14:27).

Lay Centre Director Donna Orsuto said this second celebration of Easter “is a rare, yet beautiful opportunity (for the community), despite the challenges facing everyone during the lockdown.”

One of the ways The Lay Centre will celebrate is by praying a Vespers service. Kydoniefs explained that Agape Vespers, also called Vespers of Love, is celebrated in Orthodox Churches on Easter Sunday.

“On Easter Sunday, the Church leaves behind the sorrow of the Passion and the Crucifixion and declares the joy and hope that the Resurrection brings,” she said. “The Holy Gospel is read in many different languages to shake up the world with the hope of the Resurrection. The Vespers of Love proclaim the real meaning of the Resurrection of Christ, because Christ was crucified and resurrected for the love of mankind, and (these Vespers) communicate the love of fellow man and brotherhood.” 

After Agape Vespers, The Lay Centre’s favourite neighbourhood pizzeria, Li Rioni, - which The Lay Centre director believes to be the best pizza in the world — will make a delivery.

“Pizza for Pascha is not exactly a Greek tradition, but maybe under these extraordinary circumstances we can begin new traditions,” said Orsuto.


Photo: Wikimedia Surgun100 - Icon of the Resurrection

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