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The Emperor celebrates Orthodox Easter

The Rev. Father George blesses the congregation.

HIM Emperor Jonathan I has become the first western emperor in over 900 years to attend an Orthodox Christian Easter service.

The Emperor, who converted to the Orthodox Church in May 2011 while still Crown Prince, last night attended the midnight service at the Greek Orthodox Church of Saints Constantine and Helen at Crystal Palace, celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Unlike Western Christianity, Eastern Christianity (which includes the Orthodox Church) uses the Julian instead of the Gregorian calendar to calculate the date of Easter (known as Pascha in Orthodoxy), meaning that it falls later than in the West most years.

After prayers and chants, all light in the church was extinguished shortly before midnight. The congregation, all holding candles, then lit them from candles held by the priest by the altar, with the light spreading throughout the church as those with lit candles lit the candles of those standing behind them.

Illuminated only by candlelight early on Easter morning, the Paschal troparian – a short Easter hymn – was sung (in Greek) by the congregation: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and bestowing life upon those in the tombs!” The troparian at last year’s service can be heard at this link.

After celebrating the Resurrection, the 1600-year old Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom was held, with the Emperor recieving Holy Communion before the service finished at around 02:15.

It is thought that this is the first time for over 940 years that an emperor ruling in the west has attended an Orthodox Easter service. The last time that this would have happened would have been when (“Byzantine”) Roman co-Emperors Michael VII and Romanos IV celebrated Easter on 4 April 1070, the year before the last territory of the medieval Roman Empire in Italy fell to the Normans.

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