Easter on Paros
is a life experience…
Text: Christina Fokianou | Photos: Frangiskos Kefalas (Photo Frank)
The Parian landscape is not always so fair coloured, rocky and dry, but has other faces as well, with different colours especially in spring. It’s the time when Paros becomes colourful from the poppies, daisies, amaranth, myrtle and spicy herbs. If you join the Epitaph procession toward Marpissa on Holy Friday, oregano, sage and rosemary fragrances will take you back to your childhood years. The ritual of Representations will fill you with religious devoutness. Following the anointment chants, the church of Transfiguration in Marpissa is filled with rose petals dropped from above as the congregation is getting ready to join the Epitaph procession. Lights are turned off and the narrow streets of the 14th century village are filled with candlelight and the chants of the faithful.
Magic culminates when our eyes fall on the byzantine icons coming to life in the faces of the village youths. Across from the stone fence The Resurrection of Lazarus, further away in the daisy field The Entrance into Jerusalem with the unruly little donkey stealing the show. Inside a small garden Magdalene’s Regret takes the faithful back in time, while the Last Supper is coming to life in a house yard. Pontius Pilatus is washing his hands, whereas in the olive grove on the hill to the church, The Prayer in the Olive Grove and the houses with all the candles shed light to the way up.
Chants are heard as far as the Windmills. The Uphill to Calvary and the reflection of the representation on the fresh whitewash arouses feeling of awe. A little further away Peter sends doubts inside us with his denial before the rooster crows three times while Judas hanged repels our sight. Devoutness culminates with the Crucifixion being reenacted at the top of a hill in a magic scene coming from a different era, while the bodies get entangled in medieval colours with faces full of sorrow in the Pieta scene.
The drama reaches its climax with the Epitaph Lamentation, where little angels fill our hearts with optimism for the coming Resurrection. The Epitaph Cubicle decorated with flowers from the gardens of the faithful by the village women on Holy Thursday evening, is now arriving in front of the church, carried by the village soldiers, waiting for all the congregation to pass under it as a token of respect and blessing. The wooden cross is entering the church first, after having been carried around in the hands of many expressing their need for mercy and help for the next day. On Easter Sunday the representation of the Resurrection will fill us with optimism for a new beginning, in the courtyard of the Marpissa old school.
This is where it all started… From this small elementary school at the top of the traditional Marpissa settlement, which served as the school for three villages, Marpissa, Marmara and Prodromos. Teacher Vassilia Kafourou-Asoniti aimed at getting the message of the Lord’s Passion through to both her students and the adult inhabitants of the village. Inspired by byzantine icons-heirlooms decorating the small chapels of the village, some of which belong to local families, she wanted to bring them to life with the participation of both parents and children.
Young students acted in Representations of the icons using colour and fabric taking us back to that era. This particular custom is almost a century old and is always anticipated equally by the young and the old to the very day. Today there are certain families undertaking the Representations, one each. If the person responsible needs to be changed, then one of the family’s children takes over or somebody else who may volunteer. This is a unique and emotionally intense custom. Words cannot describe the depth of the experience itself. In the ‘50s the custom was started at the nearby villages of Marmara and Prodromos and now Representations also take place at Aspro Horio and Lefkes, always following the Marpissa example.