On November 21st, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the “Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” also known as “the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple.” Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, meaning “the one who gives birth to God,” a phrase explaining her significance in the Greek Orthodox Church. The celebration is important for the religion, because it portrays God’s love and blessing for the people, as well as it honours Christ and gives hope of salvation.
We, the volunteers, had the unique chance to experience a religious event here in Greece, and to take part in the ceremony. We very much enjoyed learning about how the people of the Greek Orthodox Church practice their feasts, and the rituals connected to these.
The ceremony took place in the church of Panagia Erithiani in the evening of November 20th. The 2nd Primary School of Vrontados is located close to the church, and the celebration involved the teachers, students and parents of the school.
In the morning of November 20th, the mothers of some of the students met at the school to prepare flower bouquets, and to decorate the icon of Virgin Mary, the Theotokos. We had the opportunity to help them with this task, together with the girls of the school. The sight of the flowers was indeed stunning!
In the evening of the same day, the teachers, students and parents met again at the main entrance of the school. All of them wore formal clothes, which gave us an idea of the importance of this celebration in Greece. The icon of Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, was placed in the foyer, surrounded by flower bouquets. As more and more people gathered, they all walked up to the icon to kiss it, one by one – to show their veneration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Theotokos. Later, the priests from the church, which in Greek Orthodox Christianity are referred to as “pappas,” came to the schools, and the people started singing. After the hymns, students carried the icon to the church, Panagia Erithiani, and the crowd followed.
In the church was a ceremony to honour the Holy Theotokos. The “pappas” read scriptures and sang hymns, while the people lit candles and showed their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We, the European volunteers, appreciated the hospitality of the Greek people, allowing us to take part in a ceremony so significant to them, and to let us see the church. “Panagia Erithiani” is a beautiful church, adorned with many decorations. The decorations serve a certain role in the Greek Orthodox Church; they show God’s presence through splendid and beauty, which the people can see with their eyes.
After the ceremony in the church, which lasted for about two hours, the people present gathered in the meeting hall next to Panagia Erithiani. Traditional Greek cuisine was served, such as “loukomades” and “tiropita,” and students, parents and teachers were enjoying each other’s company and a cup of tea. The get-together was also a great chance for us volunteers to speak more with the locals in Vrontados.
We surely had the opportunity to practice our Greek!
To see all the photos go into our gallery!