May 04. 2013 9:19PM

Orthodox Christians celebrate, reflect

Special to the Sunday News

Thousands of Orthodox Christians across the Granite State will today celebrate the day Christ rose from the dead, fulfilling a promise of everlasting life for the faithful in Heaven.

And if that all sounds familiar, you're not wrong.

Although many Christians celebrated Easter last month, complete with a Holy Week that recounts Jesus' last week on Earth, Orthodox Christians celebrate Pascha, or Orthodox Easter, later.

"The only difference between the two is that due to the results of an algorithm," said Father Leo Schefe, pastor of St. George's Greek Orthodox Church in Keene. "The Julian calendar skips a leap year in order to make up the few minutes that we are off every year . Over the last 2,000 years, those few minutes have added up to 13 days.

"So the algorithm for figuring Pascha is you have the Equinox, and you have a full moon and it's the Sunday after that," he said.

Math aside, the day itself is full of meaning for members of the Orthodox Church.

"If Christmas were Jupiter," said Schefe. "Then Pascha is greater than the sun. Christmas is real big, but Pascha, you can't really compare it."

Schefe said for Orthodox Christians, Holy Week is a time of repentance and reflection. To that end, believers fast during Holy Week and abstain from dairy, wine and olive oil.

For Maria Bradshaw, 52, of Keene, a parishioner of St. George's Greek Orthodox Church in Keene, this is a time of renewal.

"This is the most important holiday for Eastern Orthodox," she said. "The week culminates in this resurrection service, which is really the hope and the salvation of Christ and our renewal. This week reminds us of how important it is to have hope. But also our own selves to remember what Christ went through."

Bradshaw said each year she leaves the celebration with a little something different that she takes with her into the rest of her life. This year, she said, she hopes to take with her "hope and compassion."

"It's a time to really look at ourselves and see what we're doing in our lives and repent, ask for forgiveness," said Heather Riley, 42, of Keene. "We do a fast, and I've been fasting, and that's my way to try to take a look at myself, to make sure that I am following the Christian life."

Riley said she had left her religion for a while, but recently found her way back.

"I grew up this way, and I took a hiatus for a few years," she said. "I'm in a place in my life where I feel like I want to renew that in my life."