First, here’s a video I’ve posted before. This is at an OCA church here in America (Birmingham, AL – St. Symeon’s) and the service is Holy Saturday Liturgy, the first Liturgy of the Resurrection. This video was taken during the hymn, “Arise O God”. Bay leaves are thrown. Everywhere. It’s so joyous, just watch it again. (:
Now, this is the video from the Greek church. The chanter is chanting “Arise O God” too and bay leaves are also thrown. However, it’s what happens after the bay leaves are all out and the priests return to the altar that was so surprising.
Did you see that? (Or more to the point, did you hear that?) Now, I tried looking it up online and found surprisingly little by way of explanation. Father and I had a few good guesses but I’m waiting on my Greek friends (Hi!) to provide a full accounting. I feel like we’re so “vanilla” in this country in comparison to the Greeks. Their motto ought to be, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” Love it.
(By the way, this video from the same church when they bring out the epitaphios is amazing as well. We’d never seen blossoms thrown onto the epitaphios by the gathered people…and then misted of all things. That explains why it was covered with clear plastic. I at first had attributed it to the fact that the Greeks always cover everything with clear plastic, lol.)
14 thoughts on “Unfamiliar custom”
In our parish in Wisconsin, this didn't happen. Now that we are at Holy Cross Theological School, I had this experience this past Holy Week.
It was explained to me that the pounding is an exclamation of Christ's triumph over death and a commemoration of the first sounding by the the women at His tomb that He had risen.
Here, bells are rung and children bring pots and pans to hit together. Chanters bang their chairs against the wall,and people stomp. It is a beautiful noise and quite the experience!
I believe you're right about the Greeks doing everything full force! Have you ever seen a video of a wedding in Greece? During the Dance of Isaiah they PELT the bride, groom, and priest with rice. They are unrelenting!
Thanks for sharing this video!
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There is another clip from a monastery at Raitho, with chanting in Arabic and Greek, in which the congregation strikes sticks together during this hymn. I have been told, but have not seen, that in some monasteries the folding wooden seats around the walls are banged to clamor for the (greatly anticipated) Resurrection. The local Greek parish last year started passing out small bells for the children to ring during this hymn.
We bang sticks at St. Paul's, but we've never seen the thing with the doors! Awesome! The noise is the harrowing of hell. You should see the kids' faces when we tell them to start making a ruckus. LOL.
I'm enjoying reading everyone's experiences!! Keep them coming! (We showed the video to the kids and they were shocked, to say the least. I thought the boys would be delighted to make that much noise in church but Pickles' first thought was that he would get in trouble for banging things in church. (c; )
In Thessaloniki all the churches bang the chairs. They say its the sound of the earthquake and the rock rolling away when Christ resurrects.
The first time I experienced it, though, I was at the church near our apartment and they don't just bang chairs. They sound air horns and shoot (are you ready for this?) CANONS! – don't ask me how. Durig all of this the priest is in the balcony and throws bay leaves down from above.
I should upload the video I took of it the first year we where here. It doesn't capture how loud the noise is but you do see me shake when it first starts because I didn't expect it at all. I only turned the camera on because all the people began gathering under the balcony. Needless to say I didn't join the crowd (I'm not a crowd person), and although it was nice to see such an ethusiastic parish, I think it's too over the top.
How neat! Thanks for sharing! My kids are loving the idea!!
It is indeed supposed to be the sound of the earthquake as Christ entered Hades to free the souls of the righteous. I always find myself in tears when the Earthquake begins. After the long days of the fast, after weeks of praying prayers of repentance, i'm always so grateful to find myself showered with Christ's mercy and to experience (within my limits) His triumph over death.
When my little godson was just an infant, his mother and i were standing side by side in Church awaiting the “Earthquake”, both quite certain that there were going to be a lot of tears and terror. As soon as it began the little baby still laying in his small basket opened his eyes, stared at us for a moment and then slightly smiled and went right back to sleep. It was one of the most peaceful moments of my life.
Sorry for such a long comment.
In Christ risen from the dead,
How wonderful! Nothing can be too over the top in my estimation in celebrating such an earthshaking event as the harrowing of Hell!
I have to say the chanters and choir (congregational singers?) at St. Symeon's are superb!
Also, I can't help but think about the descriptions I've heard of the Jewish liturgy at the Feast of Purim when they dramatize and recount the story of Esther as well with similar kinds of participation from the congregation.
Thanks for sharing!
Yep. Earthquake. You make as much noise as possible! The proto-anastasi is one of my favorite services. At our parish we prepare the children at our annual Holy Friday retreat and they sing/chant most of the service.
My GOA parish here in the States only does church bells at this point (real ones at our old parish and recorded ones at our current location) but I love the idea of banging about, sort of personifying trampling down on death! I think I'll have to suggest this to Father!
I laughed at your plastic comment. I just bought my first brand new sofa and my friend asked aren't you going to be a real Greek and cover it with plastic? 🙂 (and no I will not be!!)
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I had a lot of fun reading this post from six years ago and the following comments! We still haven’t done the harrowing of hell during Holy Saturday Liturgy, but I hope we do one day!
I loved this so much, thank you.
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For me, the best part was looking at how happy it made the priest, that he just stood there watching. 😊