The Palm Sunday was very rainy this year. The people coming to the Betheli Center were cold and wet, but still happy to carry the palm branches, crosses and the Fresco. The participants of the Palm Procession have been welcomed by the Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili. After reading the Scripture and prayer the Procession started from the Zurgovani district and walked in the rain up to the Peace Cathedral.
The Celebration Service started 20 minutes late but it could not harm the atmosphere of joy and unity. Bishop Merab Gaprindashvili preached about the significance of the Triumphal Entry of our Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem.
The Holy Week services start with the Palm Sunday. The team of the liturgists of the Evangelical Baptist church of Georgia work very hard for this special week.
Maundy Thursday Service started at 6 PM at the Peace Cathedral. The service was opened by the Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili. By the ritual of foot washing the church remembered one of the most important commandments given by the Lord Jesus Christ: To Serve Each Other. “The cross is considered to be the symbol of Christianity”, said archbishop in his sermon, “but, the best expression of the meaning of Christianity would be the towel and the basin. By washing his disciples’ feet Jesus gave the different perspective of the hierarchy of the leadership. The leader must be the servant of others.”
The Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia had international guests for the Holy Week. The Revd Grenville Overton with his wife pastor Alison Overton visited Georgia after 11 years.
The Eucharist was lead by the scripture reading: II Corinthians: 11:23-26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.”
After the Service people were met by the participants of the feet washing at the church entrance with the water and towel to wash the people’s hands as a sign of serving each other.
Every year on the Good Friday the Cross Procession starts from the Armenian Apostolic Church and through the city it goes to the Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church and finishes at the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia.
The Procession was welcomed by Father Narek at Armenian Apostolic Church.
After prayers the procession went to the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Abesadze Street. Father Akaki led the short liturgy.
On the way to the Evangelical Lutheran Church the procession passed the Rustaveli Avenue where the opposition parties have the cells. The pilgrims had the next stop near the Qashueti Church where they prayed for the Orthodox Church and for the political situation in the country.
In the Evangelical Lutheran Church the Procession was welcomed by the new bishop and the newly consecrated female pastor.
On the way to the Evangelical Baptist Church Peace Cathedral the Cross Procession stopped in the Roman Catholic Church on Javakhishvili Street. The Peter-Paul Church used to host the ecumenical services in the very beginning of the ecumenical movement in Georgia. Father Basil shared the testimony with the pilgrims. “Jesus’ sufferings did not end 20 centuries ago. He can still feel our pain and suffering. He feels the pain of the victims of earthquake in Italy. . .”He said.
In the Evangelical Baptist Church Peace Cathedral the service started at 1:00 PM. The service was focused on The Cross. People wrote their sins on little pieces of red paper and they were nailed on the cross. After the Cross litany read by the Archbishop Songulashvili and Acting archbishop Gaprindashvili the papers were taken off the cross the were burnt as a symbol of the redemption.
The Easter Celebration
The Easter Celebration started at 11:30 on April 18. Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili brought the lighted candle as a symbol of the light of the world that can never be overcome by the darkness. The Liturgical Dancers showed the story of the women at the tomb of the Lord saying: “The women went to the tomb crying and grieving for the death of their teacher and the master. They were sure that He was dead. Just like us, when we come to the Lord with our pain and grief and we think that our Got failed to protect us, failed to save us from troubles. But he comes to us and calls us by name saying: “my dear Child, why are you looking for me among dead? I am alive and I am with you and I have overcome the death and Evil. “
The Resurrection Fresco
The Iconographer of the School of St Luke Mamuka Kapanadze presented a new fresco of the Christ Resurrected. It shows our Lord Jesus Christ saving people form the death, taking them from the tombs. The innovation in the Iconography is that the fresco pictures the disciples behind Christ the savior, who do the same: help people to come out of tombs. This is the symbol of our participation in salvation of our neighbors. Another challenging symbol in the fresco is a little child in Jesus’ left hand. The skinny little child is a symbol of the endless debates about the issue of the salvation of not baptized children.
After blessing the Fresco the ministers from the different regions of Georgia and also the guests greeted the congregation.
The Archbishop said in his sermon: “The mankind understands sacrifice as the act to please the Devine One. If we view the crucifixion as something done to please God, then it means we worship the God who can let His only son die only to satisfy his feelings about justice. If we think that Jesus’ Death was sacrifice to Evil, then we say that there is something more powerful then God.. So, why did Jesus die? He died because of us. He died to help us understand his love”