Greek Easter hymns are among the most beloved, spiritual and esoteric hymns of the Orthodox Church Liturgies. To the Greek Orthodox Christians the Holy Week centers around the hymns and the Church.
There are several hymns, troparia as they are called in Greek, sung during the Holy Week, with the most important ones being the Troparion of Kassiani (the sinner woman of the scripts), and of course the Lamentations of Good Friday, that mark the Funeral Service of Christ.
The Lamentations – Easter Hymns of Holy Friday
The Lamentations are divided into three categories, the psalms, each one sung antiphonally by few groups of people during the liturgy. These psalms are the lament of women and men that see the dead Jesus.
The peak of the psalms is the troparion of the Epitaphios (Epitaph, bier), which is known in Greek as the “Ai geneai pasai”, which means all the generations, all people. It is supposed to be the lament of Virgin Mary when she sees her son dead.
It is a combination of sorrow and devout concentration, especially since the hymns are actually sung by choirs and simple people who attend the ceremony of the Epitaph, the solemn procession of carrying the entire bier around the neighborhoods and churches. The people who walk behind the bier chant with fervour, with deeply moving and sighing mood.
Ai geneai pasai – O gliki mou aear
The most known of the hymns of Good Friday is “O gliki mou aear”, which means Oh my sweet spring time. It is the most touching and moving psalms, composed probably by Romanos Melodos – although this is not something completely confirmed.
– “Oh, my sweet spring time, my sweetest child, where has your beauty set (slept)?”
The words are carefully chosen; Virgin Mary refers to her son as the Spring, referring to the setting of the sun, parallelizing the death with the sunset. All generations (ai genee pasai) praise by hymns his burial. This Easter troparion – hymn is definitely the most melodic of all, and the one stirring the senses more than anything else, since the Spring of life is lost and people see life being buried.
The Hymn of Holy Saturday – Christos Anesti
The liturgies and services during the Holy Week lead to the moment of the Resurrection; the journey to the most important moment in the Christian religion starts forty days before it, when the Lent begins, and people start fasting and attending long services and vigils. Everything peaks at midnight of Holy Saturday: It’s the moment when Christ rises from the dead, becoming Life and Salvation.
The hymn of the Resurrection is obviously the prominence of this laboring period; people who gather at the Churches on Holy Saturday night expect the midnight mark to start chanting together the following verses, that belong to the Pascha Hymn, the Hymn of the Resurrection which is sung 12 times:
Χριστός ανέστη εκ νεκρών, θανάτω θάνατον πατήσας, και τοις εν τοις μνήμασι ζωήν χαρισάμενος.
In English the hymn says: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, granting life to those in the tombs.
The Pascal Divine Liturgy is celebrated with all the attending people holding candles with the sacred light, the light of the Resurrection.
This is the Greek Pascha: the feast of the universal redemption. Christos Anesti becomes a wish in the mouth of people, marking the Greek Easter. This great hymn of Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday will be chanted repeatedly in the weeks to come, for 40 days after the actual Easter day.
Read more about the Greek Easter