ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE EASTER SUNDAY

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MOSCOW, April 11 (RIA Novosti) - On Sunday the Orthodox Christians are celebrating the greatest church festival - Easter or the Resurrection of Christ. It occurred on the third day after the Saviour's death on the Cross in vicarious atonement of human sins. This evangelical event signifies the Lord's triumph over sin and death and the start of a new world atoned by Jesus Christ.

Festive Easter services are conducted in all Orthodox churches on the night of Saturday and Sunday.

At midnight, a procession of the cross is held: to the ringing of the bells the clergy and the congregation, with candles literature and glorying the Lord, emerge from the church as if to welcome the Saviour and, after circling the temple, stop before the closed doors as if before the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre. To the singing "Christ is risen from the dead, his death conquering death and giving life to those in the graves", the doors are opened, the praying people enter the temple and the Easter canon is sung.

The Easter matins is followed by a divine liturgy and the consecration of the artos - special bread depicting the Cross or the Resurrection of Christ (it is kept in the temple until next Saturday when it is distributed to the believers).

From Easter to the Day of Ascension of the Lord, which is marked on the fortieth day after Easter, believers welcome each other by the words "Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!". After the Easter service the believers break their fast by eating Easter cakes consecrated on the day before, with coloured eggs and a paskha which as a rule is cooked from cottage cheese.

The custom of presenting each other with coloured eggs at Easter dates from the 1st century AD. Church legend has it that in those days it was customary to bring gifts when visiting the emperor. And when a poor disciple of Christ, Maria Magdalene, arrived in Rome to preach her faith before Tiberius, she made a gift of a simple hen's egg to him.

Tiberius did not believe Maria's tale of Christ's Resurrection and exclaimed: "How can anyone rise from the dead? It is as impossible as if this egg would turn red". And a miracle happened before the emperor's very eyes - the egg turned red, testifying to the genuineness of Christian faith.

In conformity with church canons, later on the Sunday afternoon churches conduct Great Paschal vespers. In Moscow's Christ the Saviour's Cathedral, the service will be led by Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II.

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