Fr. Evangelos Evangelidis, presiding priest of the Annunciation parish in Stamford, Connecticut, spoke to The National Herald about the Great and Holy Week and the “Feast of Feasts”, Holy Pascha in his parish.
The parish is comprised of three hundred families who contribute financially, but it also serves another two hundred families who attend Church Services.
Fr. Evangelos said that, “this year, like every year, I am going to conduct the holy services for Holy Week and Pascha with reverence, solemnity, and humility, contemplating God’s great love for us that is experienced through our Lord’s Passion and His Resurrection from the dead for our salvation and being with God forever.”
He said that, “each year your community has a Paschal Meal after the Anastasis Service for all our parishioners so that we may share in the joy of our Lord’s Resurrection together as one Annunciation Church family.”
There is high participation in the Holy Services. Fr. Evangelos said that, “aside from the acolytes serving in the Holy Altar, our youth does it’s best to participate in the weekly church services by reading the Epistle at the Divine Liturgy on Sunday. I also speak to the Sunday school children right after the Gospel reading to highlight its contemporary significance in a way that resonates within their hearts and speaks to them personally.”
He said, “the Divine Liturgy on the Saturday of Lazarus is geared to children and is followed by a Community Children’s Breakfast and a Retreat on the importance of it and how it relates to Holy Week and the Resurrection. Our children and their families also make Palm Crosses for Palm Sunday and participate in the Palm Sunday procession commemorating our Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem. Our youth also read the Epistles for the Holy Service of the Efchelaio on Holy Wednesday afternoon and assist in the decoration of the Kouvoukleon on Good Friday prior to the Apokatheilosis Service. Young girls of our community serve as Myrophores during the Lamentations Service, representing the women who went to our Lord’s tomb.”
Fr. Evangelos stated that, “since our Agape Vespers Service on Sunday Morning is mostly attended by families with young children who did not attend the midnight Paschal Service, we have the children participate in the lighting of the Paschal Candle as we sing “Christos Anesti”. Youth and adults participate in the reading of the Agape Gospel proclaiming our Lord’s Resurrection in English, Greek, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Romanian, Georgian, and Albanian.”
The congregants ask Fr. Evangelos questions about Holy Week and generally the Orthodox Faith.
He told TNH that, “most questions congregants ask during Holy Week and Pascha have to do with specific aspects of our Lord’s Passion and His descent into Hades that highlight His love for us in wanting to free us from corruption, decay, and death. Generally, questions regarding our Orthodox Christian Faith that parishioners ask have to do with prayer, fasting, almsgiving, Holy Communion, forgiveness, and ways to manifest God’s love in their lives and that of their families.”
Fr. Evangelos said that “Pascha for me means that all of creation is transformed, transfigured, and renewed. The slate of sin is wiped clean and everything begins anew filled with exciting possibilities founded upon God’s love for us and the love we have for each other.”