Traditionally, Easter eggs are red at Orthodox churches. An Orthodox church in Maryland continues this tradition. At the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Maryland, the church people try to make faith and fun come together. Like most Eastern Orthodox churches, these people make a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus that certainly does stand out: a red-dyed egg.
Reverend Michael Pastribos, the spiritual leader of this church, says that Pascha (a Greek word for Easter) would be hard to conceive without red eggs. Red eggs are meant to symbolize Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. They Orthodox believe that Jesus’ death happened in blood and will bring people to the church eternal life. The reverend believes that the cracking of the egg marks the end of the old and the beginning of new things. The Reverend does actually believe that the eggs are a lot of fun.
At the end of every Easter service on Saturday night, well past midnight, the reverence turns to numerous baskets that are holding the red eggs. He blesses them with a prayer and gives one red egg to each person who comes up to him and meets him at the altar. Each time he gives an egg, he says that Christ has risen. In response, the man or woman says that he agrees with the reverend that Jesus has risen.
After the service, everybody in the service goes to the basement where the churchgoers crack the eggs in mock hand-to-hand Greek combat called tsougrisma, hug and then sit down to eat. Before this Easter feast, they had been fasting as a way to prepare for this feast.
Easter red eggs at Orthodox churches are supposed to blend fun and religion as a way to unite the community. Red eggs are expected to satisfy world and religious appetites for centuries. The reverend believes that the Easter eggs are red at Orthodox churches because of tradition and of the liturgy. Red eggs are believed to represent something spiritual and the possibility that every person will get salvation.
The origin of red eggs is not fully known. Most people a the church know that the egg has been a pagan symbol of fertility. Eggs came to mean life and rebirth in the days before Christians. Early Christians made the eggs part of the Christian faith. The shell symbolizes the modern world. The egg cracked and it was like the world was dying away. The remnants of the egg meant rebirth as Jesus dying should give way to everlasting life.
John Vass, the pastor of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church in Baltimore, believes that Jesus broke out of his bonds in hell and came back from the dead. People are expected to break bonds of the egg and consume its fruits. This Baltimore church also blesses and gives red eggs out to the people.
The Orthodox picked the red dye due to Mary Magdalene. She may have wandered the Roman Empire with the egg as a visual aid. The egg was utilized to teach the rising of Jesus from the dead.
Easter eggs are red at Orthodox churches due to tradition as well as their belief in Jesus Christ that came back from the dead. Other Christians would certainly understand why the eggs are red even though they do not follow the tradition.
By Tom Clark