Macedonians mark Maundy Thursday
Thursday, 13 April 2017

Evening services in all Macedonian Orthodox Churches marked the start of Maundy Thursday, the day when the torments of Jesus Christ begin. Orthodox faithful celebrate Easter according to the old style Julian calendar, which this year comes on April 16th, the same as under the Gregorian calendar.

On Wednesday and Thursday priests speak to the faithful about the events leading up to the crucifiction - the Last Supper, Jesus' announcement of a traitor among his followers and the one who will denounce him, and his lament in the garden of Gethsemane. Thursday is also the day of the holy communion, replicating the communion the apostles received from Jesus during the Last Supper. It's also the day of the washing of the feet, which teaches the high priests and followers of Christ not to see elevation of themselves above all others. On Maundy Thursday priests also bless the oil and myrrh, used to protect the body from illnesses and to heal the sick. The strict Lent is also relaxed on Maundy Thursday, allowing the faithful to eat food prepared with oil and drink several glasses of wine.

The entire week leading up to Easter marks the passion of Christ, his suffering during his last week on Earth and before his ressurection. It is the culmination of events during Holy Week beginning with Palm Sunday. The coming Good Friday marks the crucifixion of Jesus, the sadest day in the Christian calendar. Finally, Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection after his death, the day when he had proved his divine power and rose from the dead.

Saint John Chrysostom said that this is the week when the ancient tyranny of the Devil was broken and Death was defeated: "Do you see how the Devil is defeated by the very weapons of his prior victory? The devil had vanquished Adam by means of a tree. Christ vanquished the devil by means of the tree of the cross. The tree send Adam to Hell. The tree of the cross brought him back from there. The tree revealed Adam in his weakness, laying prostrate, naked and low. The tree of the cross manifested to all the world the victorious Christ, naked and nailed on high. Adamís death sentence passed on to all who came after him. Christís death gave life to all His children".

Traditionally, Macedonian Christians begin painting the Easter eggs on Maundy Thursday morning. The red painted eggs mark the blood of Jesus, and his entonbment after his death. At midnight, with the coming of Easter, the eggs are cracked to mark his victory over death.

Churches across Macedonia will hold sermons telling the faithful about how Christ suffered on Good Friday and how he died for our sins. "After scourging the Lord of all as though He were a runaway slave, Pilate surrendered Him to be crucified. Thus the Lord Jesus was handed over to the soldiers, was stripped of His garments, was clothed in a purple robe, was crowned with a wreath of thorns, had a reed placed in His hand as though it were a sceptre, was bowed before in mockery, was spat upon, and was buffeted in the face and on the head. Then they again clothed Him in His own garments, and bearing the cross, He came to Golgotha, a place of condemnation, and there, about the third hour, He was crucified between two thieves. Although both blasphemed Him at the first, the thief at His right hand repented, and said: 'Remember me, O Lord, when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom', to which our Saviour answered, 'Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise'. As He hung upon the Cross, He was blasphemed by those who were passing by, was mocked by the high priests, and by the soldiers was given vinegar to drink mixed with gall. About the ninth hour, He cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'It is finished'".

Finally, at about the setting of the sun, Joseph of Arimathea came with Nicodemus (both of them had been secret disciples of Jesus), and they took down the all-holy Body of the from the Cross and anointed it with aromatic spices, and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. When they had buried Him in a new tomb, they rolled a great stone over its entrance. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, his grave found empty.

The resurrection will be heralded in all churches across Macedonia, with Easter liturgies being held in all Macedonian Orthodox Churches at home and abroad.


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