Orthodox Christians Keep Easter Traditions Alive During Pandemic

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By Jessica Easthope 

A church that’s pitch black represents the tomb where Jesus is laid in the days leading up to his resurrection, and this is how the Orthodox Christian community begins its Easter celebration every year.

But unlike years past, this time a camera has replaced the parishioners of Saint Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.

“To not have the people there for the Easter Vigil, out in the streets, proclaiming the resurrection Gospel, was very surreal for us,” explained archpriest Father Thomas Zain.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the cathedral was nearly empty. The only people present were Fr. Thomas and his family.

Fr. Thomas is fighting to keep the usually interactive tradition alive against all odds.

“Usually all the people in the church would come up with their candles and light them with my candle and process outside,” he said.

Parts of the paschal vigil that normally require parishioner participation went on anyway. Fr. Thomas reenacted entering the tomb to discover that Jesus is risen.

“The priest comes out with the one candle and chants,” he explained, and then the once dark church is illuminated, every light is turned on and every candle is lit proclaiming the resurrection.

Fr. Thomas said when everything returns to normal, he hopes his parishioners continue to illuminate their homes with the Word of God proving that during times of darkness, Jesus is the light.