Moscow (AsiaNews) – In Russia, Easter is the main religious celebration. Yesterday, Easter Sunday according to the Orthodox calendar, Russians, believers and non-believers alike, greeted each other saying "Christos voskres!" (Christ is Risen!) and "Voistinu voskres" ('Truly He is Risen').
Across the country, parishes filled up and in Moscow, the highest authorities of the state sat in front of the Patriarch of Moscow who led the service in the capital’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
In Moscow’s main church, the liturgy lasted from 11 pm Saturday to early dawn Sunday. The Holy Light, which was brought from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, was used to light thousands of candles for the Easter Vigil.
During the nightly service, the officiating priest symbolically removes the shroud from the tomb and comes out of the church in a procession in search of the body of Christ.
After following a predetermined path, he repeats three times – "Christos voskres!" (Christ is Risen!) – and the faithful respond by saying "Voistinu voskres" ('Truly He is Risen').
By tradition, people repeat the same words when they express Easter greetings to family and friends. The ritual also involves kissing each other on the cheek three times, and exchanging traditional hand-painted eggs.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and his wife Svetlana as well as Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobianin attended the vigil led by Patriarch Kirill.
In his Easter message, the Kremlin leader praised the Orthodox Church for helping to create a "spirit of patriotism" among young people.
In his view, “The Russian Orthodox Church plays an enormous formative role in preserving our rich historical and cultural heritage and in reviving eternal moral values. It works tirelessly to bring unity, to strengthen family ties and to educate the younger generation in the spirit of patriotism.”
However, the patriarch’s remarks symbolically associating Orthodox Easter to the Soviet victory over Nazism (whose 70th anniversary will be celebrated on 9 May) has generated controversy, limited for now to social media.
"Let us celebrate the victory of good over evil, which takes different forms, but always has one goal,” Kirill said. “If evil is not stopped at the global level, it will destroy life and human civilisation."
In addition to the religious aspect, Easter Day celebrations include a big repast with the whole family. Some of the food eaten on Easter Sunday is blessed in church the evening before.
Typical Easter delicacies include Kulich, a type of bread decorated with white icing, Paskha, a cake made of fresh cheese, and dyed eggs.
Although Easter is a central to the Orthodox calendar, just over 3 per cent of Muscovites took part in religious services yesterday, this according to official sources.
Some 4,000 police, soldiers and volunteers were deployed over the holiday to provide order and security.