Saturday, June 29, 2013


 The Epitaphios (Greek: Ἐπιτάφιος, epitáphios, or Ἐπιτάφιον, epitáphion; Slavonic: Плащаница, plashchanitsa) is an icon, today most often found as a large cloth, embroidered and often richly adorned, which is used during the services 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.

Near the end of Matins, during the Great Doxology, a solemn procession with the Epitaphios is held, with bells ringing the funeral toll, commemorating the burial procession of Christ. In Slavic churches, the Epitaphios alone is carried in procession with candles and incense. It may be carried by hand or raised up on poles like a canopy. 

Many Greek churches, however, will carry the entire bier, with its carved canopy attached. In societies where Byzantine Christianity is traditional, the processions may take extremely long routes through the streets, with processions from different parishes joining together in a central location. Where this is not possible, the procession goes three times around the outside of the church building. 

The procession is accompanied by the singing of the Trisagion, typically in a melodic form used at funerals. Those unable to attend the church service will often come out to balconies and sidewalks where the procession passes, holding lit candles and sometimes hand-held censers.

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.  [ source ]

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