(My thanks to a friend for helping me with this post - I am not good at this)
The Greek Orthodox Church is blessed for its role in preserving traditions and customs of both an internal and external beauty - how can one not be associated with the other; in this post I want to illustrate the custom of decorating Christ's tomb with flowers, a tradition that's considered a "jewel" for Greek Orthodoxy. I am talking about the Epitaph (epi επί + taphos τάφος = over + grave), a mosaic of flowers which often, as in the photo above, becomes an art masterpiece.
The Epitaphios is decorated during the early hours of Holy Friday by groups of women that work painstakingly and tirelessly while staying with Christ after his death and his Passion on the Cross.
The devotees will gather at church in the evening of Holy Friday to venerate, honour and pray at Christ's tomb. They will chant some of the most remarkable and too beautiful to describe hymns of the Greek Byzantine repertoire. Hymns of sorrow but also of great hope and devoutness. Those are still moments of grief but the beauty of the chanting and of the fresh flowers are the epitome of the long wait for the resolution to the Passion. The Epitaphios along with the Engomia (chants) of Holy Friday is an illustration of the life inside the grave. Yes, life inside the Grave. Not death inside the Grave.
The hymn "Life in the Grave" (Η Ζωή εν Τάφω - I Zoi en Tafo) is an example of that transition between life and death, sorrow and joy. Listening to this hymn you cannot differentiate sadness from joy. It has mixed feelings, mixed meanings. It's a mosaic of contents and of worlds.
The BEAUTIFUL and MOVING hymn "LIFE IN THE GRAVE" and THE EPITAPHIOS PROCESSION.
Women decorating the Epitaphios