05 April 2010

Flowers in church

One of the problems of Western Easter and Orthodox Pascha coinciding, as they do this year and next year (it's quite rare for them to coincide two years running) is that flowers are virtually unobtainable.

It's also interesting how Western customs differ from Orthodox ones. Western Christians give up flowers for Lent, and go mad with them for Easter, as Cherie shows on her blog Cherie's Place: The Easter Cross:
As part of the Easter celebrations the local parish church always erects a wooden cross and adorns it with flowers. This is done by the congregation just before the Easter morning service. I think it is a lovely idea and the little children get involved with it too.

The Human Flower Project notes, however, that:
In contrast with Roman Catholic and most Protestant churches, the Eastern Orthodox sects do not shun flowers on Good Friday: lemon flowers in Crete, floral biers in New Jersey, daffodils in Bulgaria, and more.

And they even nicked a picture from my other blog, Khanya, showing the Epitaphios decorated with flowers.

The Epitaphios is the burial shroud of Christ, which is placed on a table in the middle of the church, decorated with flowers. St Nicholas parish in Johannesburg is perhaps somewhat unusual, in that we combine both Greek and Russian customs, so that there is more action in the services. On Holy Thursday morning the Last Supper is commemorated, and after the service members of the congregation decorate the Epitaphios table with flowers. Usually we use chrysanthemums, white and purple, which are cheap and plentiful, but this year, because of Western Easter, there were none to be had.

At the Thursday service there is Matins of Good Friday, sung the evening before by anticipation, interspersed with 12 gospel readings of the Passion. It is the longest of the Holy Week services, lasting nearly 4 hours. After the fifth gospel reading the cross is brought out from the altar. Then on Good Friday morning, we have Vespers, which is the taking down from the cross. The body is taken off the cross, and the Epitaphios is brought out and placed on the table. And at the evening service it is carried in procession around the church, and young girls act the part of the myrrh-bearing women and scatter flowers petals on it.

So for the Orthodox Good Friday is the most flowery day of the year.


CherryPie said...

Thanks for the link and the interesting post. I didn't realise that two ever coincided so I have learnt something new.

James Higham said...

There are certainly differences and I prefer the Orthodox - maybe that was 12 years of Russia. On the other hand, whilst saints should be revered and the priesthood respected, the place of church leaders seems too high with the Orthodox.

But hey - these are quibbles. Seems to me that if the Orthodox and Roman are bastions of Christianity, then doctrinal differences should be subordinate to the scriptures themselves.


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