UOC hierarch says if Easter celebration can be shifted

Archbishop Theodosius of Cherkasy and Kaniv. Photo: Cherkasy Evangelist

Archbishop Theodosius of Cherkasy believes that the Easter service cannot begin earlier than Sunday midnight.

Archbishop Theodosius (Snigirev) of Cherkasy and Kaniv commented for the UOJ on the discussion about the start of the Easter service celebration in the Church of Greece, where, due to the curfew, the beginning of the service was shifted from Sunday 00:00 to 22:00, and then to Saturday 21:00.

“For the second year now, the coronavirus and its consequences are forcing us to reconsider many of the norms and rules of life that are customary for everyone,” the bishop recalls. “And the Church is no exception. It seems to me that the important thing is how we behave at the beginning, what tactics we choose in changing circumstances. Indeed, in fact, now the foundation is being laid, the basis for making church decisions not only in the covid period but also for the future time of upheavals and cataclysms, about which the Lord spoke to His disciples more than once."

That is why, according to the archbishop, “any issue requiring a revision of established traditions, church statutes or canons requires careful study and exclusion of hasty, controversial decisions, which naturally lead to disagreements and confusion among believers. These issues are unambiguously related to the issue of shifting the celebration of Easter 3 hours earlier, as it was now imposed by the Greek government to the Greek Orthodox Church."

Responding to the question of a UOJ correspondent whether such practice is acceptable for the believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the bishop answered in the negative.

In his opinion, the beginning of the Easter service before midnight will actually mean “the celebration of Christ's Resurrection on Saturday, which is unacceptable neither from the point of view of the Orthodox canon nor from the point of view of the church statute, nor historical truth. The church statute determines the time of the beginning of the Easter celebration "On the morning hour" on the Bright Day of Easter itself. It can be 00:00 a new day, or early in the morning, or even late in the morning, but not on Saturday the night before. Violating this rule, we not only destroy the ancient tradition of the Church and the liturgical rule but also distort the very meaning of the feast, because Christ was in the grave for three days, not two. And He rose not on the Sabbath of rest, but on the first day of the new week – the new Day of the new world and the New Testament."

Bp. Theodosius believes that believers need to obey the authorities in matters that fall within their competence, but at the same time he admits that “governments of different countries” can “use the current quarantine rules to hurt Christians, for the most part, Orthodox Christians, to make them vulnerable in the issues that are not of fundamental importance for quarantine measures. They are especially active on the eve of Easter, for the second year in a row."

Therefore, in the opinion of the bishop, "we, church people, at this time need to be especially vigilant and watchful, to do everything to prevent the prince of this world from gradually drawing our Church into the plane of unacceptable compromises."

As reported, the Greek government and the GOC have reached an agreement to shift the start of Easter celebrations due to quarantine restrictions. After that, the Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Church Ambrose wrote a letter to Archbishop Jerome of Athens and All Greece, where he stated that by the decision regarding the time of the Divine Liturgy, the members of the Holy Synod of the 164th synodal period “violate the canonical church order”. The Metropolitan stressed that Easter services should not begin at 21:00, as is now planned, but at midnight.

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