VALPARAISO — Parishioner Jim Tachtiris was first to arrive at St. Iakovos Greek Orthodox Church for Good Friday services.
Tachtiris carefully lit a candle, placed it in a sandbox then made a sign of the cross.
"This is the best time of the year. This is what Orthodoxy is all about," Tachtiris said.
Tachtiris, a second-generation Greek-American, remembers attending as a boy Easter or Pascha services with his family at the former Greek Orthodox church in Gary. Now, as a retired machinist, Tachtiris assists parish priest, the Rev. James Greanias, as a senior altar server.
Tachtiris and other parish members of St. Iakovos joined with millions of Orthodox Christians worldwide to commemorate the events of the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ known as Holy Week.
Most Christians celebrated Easter a few weeks ago, but Orthodox Christians in this country and throughout the world celebrate the commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Sunday, Greanias said.
Greanias said the Orthodox Easter typically follows that of other Christian churches because it follows the older, Julian calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian calendar.
"What's cool this year is that Pascha or known in Greek as Passover falls historically correct," Greanias said.
Passover for those of the Jewish faith ends Saturday while the climax of the Holy Week for Orthodox Christians is on Sunday.
Easter, or Pascha, will be celebrated at Resurrection services, which start late Saturday and culminate at midnight with the lighting of a single candle, Greanias said. The single candle, which is lit from an oil lamp, represents the light that is Christ.
The announcement of the Resurrection begins with a reading from the Gospel according to Mark followed by the entire congregation singing, "Christ is Risen."
This is the third Easter of Pascha held at St. Iakovos, the 8,200-square-foot building at 34 W. 700 North. The congregation, which began celebrating services starting in 1981 at a former Methodist church near Valparaiso University, moved on a temporary basis in 2007 to the old St. Paul's School gymnasium.
The present building, which includes an office, classroom and fellowship room, will be used as a church home until the permanent church is built on the northeast side. Greanias is hopeful that the permanent church will be built within the next three to five years. A mortgage burning ceremony, for the existing facility, is planned for later this fall. Next year a capital campaign will begin for construction of the $3 million to $4 million church to be built.