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Orthodox Christians to observe Good Friday

Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Re
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Oakland will be decorating a ceremonial tomb of Christ for Good Friday celebrations through the weekend with flowers such as these seen adorning an icon at the church on Thursday, May 2, 2013.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013, 11:30 p.m.

Members of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church will leave their pews carrying lighted candles during Good Friday services to follow a ceremonial tomb of Christ being carried outside.

“This is a big deal for the Greek Orthodox church,” said the Rev. Christopher Bender, pastor of the Oakland church. “It's the high point of the year for us liturgically.”

Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter this Sunday.

The tomb, called the Epitaphio, is decorated with as many as 1,500 carnations, lilies, gardenias and orchids and is displayed in the church during the Good Friday service.

Children and women from the church were to decorate the tomb Friday morning.

“This is the busy week for us,” said Jason Gidas of Gidas Flowers on Forbes Avenue, which supplies the flowers to St. Nicholas and two other Greek Orthodox churches.

Upon their return to the church, members of the congregation will pass under the tomb, “symbolizing the passing from death to life,” Bender said. At the end of the service, priests will hand out flowers from the Epitaphio to the congregation.

Orthodox Christian churches in the United States generally observe Good Friday later than many western churches do. Also known as Great Friday or Holy Friday, it is a day of mourning, fasting and prayer.

Good Friday services remember the moments that led to and include the crucifixion of Christ, as written in the New Testament of the Bible.

Some Orthodox churches begin observing Holy Friday on Thursday night, where the liturgy's main feature is the reading of 12 sections from the gospels. Priests also remove icons of Jesus from crosses and wrap them in linen to re-enact ancient burial rites.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or

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