The Greek Easter Services

A Queer Custom Carried Out at the Church on Third Avenue Yesterday

The members of the Greek Orthodox church, of Homestead yesterday celebrated their Easter Sunday which falls just seven days later than the Easter of the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. The Greek church is located on Third avenue above Dickson street, the membership being about 400 although nearly twice that number took part in the services yesterday, all the towns in the Monongahela valley being represented this being the only Greek church in the valley.

The Easter Sunday services begin at midnight and [sic] is opened by high mass. The ringing of the church bells at midnight Saturday caused a great deal of speculation among the citizens of the town, many of whom got up out of bed and went to the window or door and inquired of the late pedestrians passing by, what it all meant. The ringing of the bells was kept up for 15 or 20 minutes.

The rules governing the Lenten observance in the Greek Orthodox church are much more strict than in any other denomination and one of the most binding laws is the total abstinence from meat of all kinds during the entire seven weeks. The members of the church eat a great deal on Easter Sunday, and before being eaten it is taken to the church and blessed by the priest.

At the close of the mass, or in the neighborhood of 2 o’clock in the morning, is conducted the first blessing of the food for Easter Sunday.

The blessing of food is a peculiar ceremony and the Greek church is the only one in which it is observed. The service is opened with a high mass said in the church, and then, if the weather is favorable, the entire congregation goes into the grounds surrounding the church building and there the priest who officiates at the mass holds a short service of prayer and then asks the blessing of God on the food which is carried there in baskets. It is an unwritten law to hold this service in the open air unless the weather is too inclement, but in the event of rain or snow the church building is used.

There are some 400 members in the church on Third avenue, many of whom come miles to have their Easter food blessed. It is the ordinary custom to conduct but one food blessing service, but on account of the large congregation and the distance many of them live from the church, the priests in charge conduct one service at 2 o’clock in the morning and the other at 10 o’clock. At the first service those who live a great distance come and bring all the food for the day in baskets and it is piled in the yard of the church. To the 10 o’clock service come those who live nearby and who can come fasting without any inconvenience. Exactly the same exercises are carried out at both services.

In all there were probably more than 800 who had their food blessed. In this number were children too young to be considered members of the church. Both services were held in the yard of the church the weather being sufficiently favorable.

The Greek Orthodox church is governed by the Gregorian calendar which is about 11 days behind the Julian calendar, which is used by the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches.

At long last, the Carpatho-Rusin immigrants had filled the spiritual void left by the departure from their homeland for employment in the steel mill of Homestead. Though definitely modest, they finally had their own church, a place where they were able to pray, to sing familiar liturgical melodies, to hear their native language and to worship comfortably and freely according to the manner and traditions of the Eastern Catholic faith to which they were accustomed. However, the tiny church at 521 Third Avenue would only prove to be a mere way station on the journey of faith of St. John’s Parish. Within a relatively short period of time, bigger and better things would be in the offing for the tiny congregation.