HOLY WEEK, ANNUNCIATION CHURCH AND ST. NICHOLAS, APRIL 5 – 8, 2007
Friday night in Greektown is generally a raucous, recreational time—except on Good Friday, and especially among members of the Orthodox Church. Called Holy and Great Friday by members of the Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholics, followers of this faith meet up to three times during the day for prayer—in the forenoon to pray the Royal Hours appointed for that day; in the afternoon, around 3 pm (the time of day that the Bible offers for the death of Christ), and finally, in the evening for the Vespers of Holy Friday.
For the uninitiated, (as we were when we began to film ‘Our Greek Story’), the Orthodox Church is a group of Christian churches that developed from the Church of the Byzantine Empire as a result of a schism with the Church of Rome, and is based on theological, cultural and political differences with the Vatican. There are nine Orthodox jurisdictions in the nation, including the Russian, Albanian and Serbian orthodox churches. The Greek Orthodox is the largest, with more than 50,000 members in Detroit.
On Holy and Great Friday, we were honored to join the congregants of Greektown’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church as they revisited the events of the day through public reading of the Psalms and Gospels, and singing hymns about Christ's death. Unlike Roman Catholic services, a full liturgy was not performed.
Central to the sacred services was His Emininence Metropolitan Nicholas, who in most years would lead a procession of congregants into Greektown during the service, with a symbolic tomb of Christ decorated with flowers. During the procession, the flowers from the tomb would be handed out to people in Greektown as a symbolic reminder of the life that will come from tomb. This year, it was unfortunately too cold to make such a procession feasible, particularly with many of the members of the congregation elderly.
His Eminence was ordained as a Deacon 1991 by Bishop Maximos at the Annunciation Church in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Maximos and co-celebrant Bishop Philip at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Denver, Colorado later in 1991. He was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite on the same day, based on his years of service to the Church.
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church is known in part for its visuals known as icons—a distinguishing characteristic in Orthodox worship. Cathedral leaders unveiled new sacred images in the church's dome in 2005 just in time for that year’s Easter holiday. The features eight angels, sixteen prophets, a Greek prayer and the face of Christ in the middle. The thinking among church leaders is that if a person could not read nor hear, they could learn the theology just through the images.
The next night, we were equally enthralled to be included in an incomparably beautiful Holy Saturday Mass at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Troy. Led by Rev. Fr. Stratton Dorozenski, the traditional liturgy began at midnight and was largely offered in the Greek language. Yet, it contained enough splendor to engage non-Greeks alike. Among the Orthodox Church, Holy Saturday celebrates the entombment of Jesus Christ, his great victory of Death and the expectation, on Sunday, of his resurrection.
Following the service, which includes psalm reading, canon singing, the singing of the Hymns of Praise and a series of scriptural readings, a large feast occurred in the Cathedral’s banquet room. It was in the kitchen that we met Ana Diamantaras, whose recipes for traditional Greek food are legendary throughout the Detroit Greek community. Our sampling, including avgolemona, or chicken lemon soup, appears to prove that out.