St George's Greek Orthodox Church is located 64 St David St, Thornbury, Victoria 3071. It is housed in an older church of St David, which was decommissioned and the property sold. St George's was initially housed at the corner of Martin and Armadale Streets, Thornbury. It later relocated to its current site in St. David St, which was purchased in the 1970s. Today it serves local parishioners every week.
The photos are from Good Friday immediately after the liturgy, when the faithful are adoring the Epitaphios. The Epitaphios (Greek: Ἐπιτάφιος, epitáphios, or Ἐπιτάφιον, epitáphion) is an icon, today most often found as a large cloth, embroidered and often richly adorned, which is used during the liturgies of Good Friday and Holy Saturday in the Eastern Orthodox Churches and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite. It also exists in painted or mosaic form, on wall or panel. The Epitaphios is also a common short form of the Epitáphios Thrēnos, the “Lamentation upon the Grave” in Greek, which is the main part of the service of the Matins of Holy Saturday, served in Good Friday evening.
In Greek churches, an elaborately carved canopy, called a “kouvouklion”, stands over the Epitaphios. This bier or catafalque represents the Tomb of Christ, and is made of wood. On Good Friday morning, the bier is decorated with spring flowers, mostly white, red, and purple, until it is covered by the flowers in its entirety. The Tomb is often sprinkled with flower petals and rosewater, decorated with candles, and ceremonially censed as a mark of respect. The bells of the church are tolled mournfully, and in traditionally Orthodox countries, flags are lowered to half-mast. Then the priest and faithful adore the Epitaphios as the choir chants hymns.
The faithful continue to visit the tomb and venerate the Epitaphios throughout the afternoon and evening, until Matins—which is usually served in the evening during Holy Week, so that the largest number of people can attend. The form which the veneration of the epitaphios takes will vary between ethnic traditions. Some will make three prostrations, then kiss the image of Christ on the Epitaphios and the Gospel Book, and then make three more prostrations. Sometimes, the faithful will crawl under the table on which the Epitaphios has been placed, as though entering into death with Christ. Others may simply light a candle and/or say a short prayer with bowed head.
In the evening, the Kouvouklion carrying the Epitaphion is carried in procession along the neighbourhood streets by the chanting priest and deacons, while the faithful follow it with lit candles. In many towns where more than one parish exists, the processions often converge to a central square, where they temporarily stop and a common Triságion psalm is sung before they resume their routes. On the island of Hydra, the Epitaphios from the Kamíni parish is brought into the sea until the bier bearers are waist-high in the water, as a special blessing for those who have perished at sea. In larger towns the procession is led by a local marching band playing funeral marches; in some cities the Epitaphios is escorted by military detachments, their arms in the mourning (muzzle towards the ground) position.
At the end of the procession, the Epitaphios is brought back to the church. Sometimes, after the clergy carry the Epitaphios in, they will stop just inside the entrance to the church, and hold the Epitaphios above the door, so that all who enter the church will pass under it (symbolically entering into the grave with Christ) and then kiss the Gospel Book. The flowers that decorated the Kouvouklion will be distributed to the faithful who will place them near the holy icons.
This post is part of the inSPIREd Sunday meme.
And here is the Resurrection chant, as sung by Petros Gaitanos: