Entries with tag pascha .

Holding on to the Joy of Pascha

At some point during Great Lent, most of us go through a bit of a cycle. It goes something like this: “Lent’s not so bad! I could eat salad and lentils all year!” which transitions into, “Wait, how many days until Pascha?” until finally all we want is our favorite non-Lenten treat. It’s like that part during Vespers when the priest says, “Let us complete our evening prayer to the Lord,”...but Vespers isn’t done yet.

 

When Pascha finally comes and we “come receive the Light” and we sing “Christ is risen,” everything seems right in the world. It’s the greatest conclusion to this grand period of expectation and waiting. We sing, “Christ is risen” for forty days until Christ’s Ascension. Fasting is even lightened for a period. It’s a joyous time!

 

But before we know it, that joy that we found on Pascha morning begins to fade. We don’t find the same excitement in the little joys of meat and cheese, we don’t have a big feast day to look forward to that’s on everyone’s minds, we don’t have the beautiful cycle of church services to keep us on our toes. So how do we hold on to the joy of Pascha the rest of the year?

 

1. Appreciation

 

Does anything taste as good as that first Chick-fil-A nugget after Pascha? Let’s be honest. Okay, so you can replace chicken for a bacon cheeseburger or feta, or whatever it is that you were craving during Lent. The thing we can all agree on is that we appreciate things so much more when we go for a period without them.

 

After Pascha, there’s a profound sense of freedom. The week after Pascha, I thought, “I think I’ll have a burger today - because I can.” But because of Pascha, it quickly becomes, “because Christ is risen” and “because the Resurrection.” In other words, my appreciation for my freedom in the things I eat becomes tied to my freedom in Christ.

 

When I’ve lived places where it rarely rained, or when it snowed more than I thought possible or when I lived in an apartment without a washing machine, I became especially appreciative of the opposite when I moved away. But after a while, I forget and get frustrated when it rains or wish for a snow day or get frustrated with my washing machine. Somehow I forget what it was like beforehand.

 

What Pascha calls us to all year round is to appreciate the freedom we have in Christ, to appreciate all of God’s blessings seen and unseen. I remember to be appreciative of God’s blessings and His grace by practicing gratitude. When I specifically thank God for people, things, and moments, I am more aware of what God is doing in my life. And the more I appreciate what I have now, the more I can only imagine what God is going to do next.

 

2. Expectation

 

“Are we there yet?” How many times have we all said that either as kids or on a flight somewhere? We have a sense of expectation that drives our excitement. This expectation for what is to come - where we’re going - keeps us motivated to deal with the long car ride, the uncomfortable plane seating, the lentils and beans.

 

But once we’ve arrived at Pascha, the expectation is gone and quite often so is our motivation. After a busy Holy Week - filled with beautiful services and hours of prayer and being around people - my motivation to pray and my desire to be around people really shrinks. It’s that feeling when you’re hiking and you get to the top of the mountain. The excitement of “I made it!” only lasts until you realize, “I have to get back down!?” In the spiritual life, we can experience the same thing - a sort of crash or “low” after the spiritual “high” of Pascha.

 

What we need is to be able to hold on to a level-headed sense of expectation. St. Paul says, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). We see then that the feast of Pascha is not our final goal - Christ Himself (Who is the true Pascha) is our goal. And we keep Christ as our daily goal, the One for Whom we press forward in our life, by living an active life in the Church.

 

3. Participation

 

The Lenten period is a time of spiritual exercize, a time that prepares us for the rest of the year. But it isn’t just a time to charge our spiritual batteries so that we can rely on the past to keep us going today. We have to continue to keep our minds sharp, our hearts attuned to God and watchful against the passions so that we “may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

 

If we are already less appreciative of the things we were so excited for during Lent, or if we are already dreading the walk back down the mountain (so to speak) that we sense post-Pascha, our participation in the life of the Church may already be slacking. Check out your parish calendar to see what is going on besides Sunday Liturgy. See what services they have during the week (Paraklesis, Vespers, special feast days), see what Bible studies or special evening events your community will be hosting. If you fasted during Lent, how might you be able to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays during the year? Have you ever kept the Apostle’s Fast?

 

Equally important as communal participation is continued participation in your own personal relationship with Christ when you’re alone. How might you keep a simple prayer habit when you wake up or before you go to bed? What habit of reading Scripture and another Orthodox book can you keep after Pascha?

 

After so many weeks of action, we may feel burnt out with all of the “doing” of our faith. But action and spiritual activity are important because they keep us spiritually fit. Our participation in our faith keeps us trained so that all year round we are able to perceive the presence of God in our lives and have a strong relationship with Him and our neighbor.

 

*****

 

Pascha is easily my favorite day of the year. But I can forget that every Sunday is a little Pascha; every Sunday, we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. That means that the joy I feel on Pascha is something that I can experience every week. And even during the week, I can be appreciative of the little things, of all of God’s blessings at work in my life. I can live a life of expectation of God’s Kingdom - not only of a date on the calendar. And finally, I can live a life of active participation in the Church day to day, throughout the year.

 

How are you holding on to the joy of Pascha? How do you keep away the post-Pascha blues?

 

Want more from Y2AM? Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter. As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

 

Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages, genealogy, and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

______________

Overcoming Emptiness - Holy Week and Pascha

Holy Week.

Everything over the last several weeks – the services, the commemorations, the prayers, the fasting – has been leading to the events of this week. All of it has been designed to open our hearts to fully experience these high holy days and the Resurrection in which they culminate. 

Though these events are distinct, they nonetheless work together in perfect unity with one another. In truth, we celebrate the events of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection together! 

We cannot isolate the Cross from the Resurrection any more than we can isolate the Resurrection from the Cross.  Doing so would make the Resurrection empty and the Cross meaningless.  

All of the events of Holy Week are undertaken as Christ’s one, seamless Passion, in which He works to free fallen humanity from sin, death, and the devil. As we will sing at midnight on Saturday: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs He is bestowing life.” 

Even on Pascha, the feast of His Most Holy and Glorious Resurrection, we are remembering His death – trampling down death by death. It is in the Cross, in His Death, that Christ’s victory occurs; but it is only in the light of the Resurrection that the darkness of the Cross is seen for what it is. Without the Resurrection, Christ stays in the grave and is just one more nameless victim of the Roman Empire. And so this whole week should be undertaken as one, wholly united and saving act of God. 

It’s important to remember that, before Christ, the Cross was a symbol of death and despair.  Untold thousands died painfully on crosses across the Roman Empire, often for no other reason than because the authorities sought to exert their power and deepen their control.

These were meaningless deaths.  

Yet Christ did not run from the Cross.  Though He was innocent of any and all wrongdoing, He accepted the most brutal and final of punishments.  He accepted a meaningless death.  

Yet, in doing so, He revealed the true meaning of the Cross, as He showed it to be the key to the Resurrection.  He bravely stared into the void, and filled it with hope and life.  
Without the Cross, there is no Resurrection.  And without the Resurrection, the Cross is the meaningless death of a poor carpenter’s poor son.

The Resurrection gives meaning to the Cross, illuminating it as the “Life-Giving Cross” of the Lord. As St. Athanasius puts it, the Resurrection reveals to us that the Cross is “the glorious monument to death’s defeat.”1  But it bears repeating (again and again) that it is only in Christ’s voluntary Passion and His Glorious Resurrection from the dead that we understand death to have been destroyed by His death.

After all, hindsight is twenty-twenty.

Indeed, isn’t this the case in our own lives?

Like everyone, I’ve felt stuck in situations that, at the time, seemed dark, hopeless, even meaningless.  To the extent possible, it is only by looking backwards through my life that I can understand the different steps and turns that I needed to take (to be taken on?) in order to arrive where I am today.

And isn’t that the case with all of us?

Haven’t there been times in each of our lives when we have thought, “There is absolutely no way this is going to work out. I may as well give up.” And haven’t we all been proved wrong at some point, even if it took an uncomfortably long time? And standing on the other side of it, don’t we all have that blessed moment of understanding: “OHHHHHHHHHHHH!” 

Each of us walks through life being pummeled by life’s many mini-deaths, crosses – job loss, divorce, a child’s death, mental illness, addiction ¬– and often, in the midst of it, it simply feels meaningless. 

And we’re not alone in that despair.  Even the Scripture records the despair of great figures like King David who, in the midst of his troubles, cried out to God with doubt, imploring, “How long, O Lord?” (Ps 13).

Even Christ cried out, as He hung from the Cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mat 27:46).  Imagine it. God Himself, hanging from the Cross, experiences feelings of abandonment by God. In this way, God is present even in the experience of  being godforsaken. There are no words to do this justice!

By entering our suffering, God imbues it with meaning, not because He sends the suffering, but because He shares it.  Because He loves us. 

Sometimes we believe that we receive trials and troubles as punishment for…something (not praying enough? not fasting? not giving that homeless gentleman a dollar?). We turn God’s action in our lives into some kind of cosmic yet strangely personal tit-for-tat (at best) or infantile yet powerfully punitive judgment (at worst). As if good things happening in our life were evidence that we are on the right path while the so-called bad things are evidence that we are on the wrong path.

But if that were the case, how does this account for Christ, the Innocent One, who bravely and voluntarily went to His own death?  Was His suffering a punishment?

No. God is the source of life and joy, not death and despair.  Yet the world, which is still in the process of being saved, is still imperfect.  And our walk through life will, unfortunately, be interrupted by crosses.  

Each of us experiences these crosses as being too heavy, too overwhelming, and perhaps that is precisely the point. Even Christ fell carrying His Cross; crosses are HEAVY. And frequently, we may find ourselves falling under the weight of them, asking ourselves and God, “What’s the point?”

Honestly, there may not always be the point.  Life just sucks sometimes.  

But perhaps that is just the point. Maybe the choices we make, and the way we respond to apparently meaningless suffering, will allow us to make sense of that pain when it’s all done.

Maybe we’ll be able to make sense of pain when we’re delivered from it, when we look backward from the Kingdom of God.

Maybe our paths through life will only make sense when we stand resurrected by the Resurrected One and look back at all that our lives have been. Maybe only then, after we stand unbroken and transformed, will our crosses – job loss, divorce, etc. – become monuments to the defeat of death in our own lives. 

God understands that our crosses hurt us. He understands that we are prone to despair and confusion and feelings of utter meaningless. And He does not want us to endure it alone. Instead of allowing these things to simply be meaningless, Christ took up the Cross and transformed darkness into light. He took the meaningless, and gave it meaning inasmuch as pain, suffering – indeed, the Cross – has become the location of His very life-giving presence. 

It is in His death that He fully unites Himself with humanity, drinking to the dregs all that it is to be a human in this broken, fallen, and dying world.

And perhaps this is the message of Holy Week for us. Our paths may be dark. Our crosses may be heavy. But they only last for a little while, and in the end, the light of Christ’s Resurrection reveals to us that they are the very means by which we can share in Christ’s victory over death in our own lives. Indeed, we must not view our own crosses apart from Christ’s victory in the Cross, illumined by His Resurrection.

Christ’s Passion and Resurrection show us that, even when our own suffering seems arbitrary and meaningless, this emptiness can be overcome. That no darkness is too dark to be overcome by Christ’s light, as we join Him on the path to Golgotha. 

And what’s more, Christ’s Passion and Resurrection demonstrate to us that we do not walk this path alone. As Andrew Root writes, “God does not meet us in the natural order, in power, or in individual holiness, but in lowliness, weakness, and suffering; for God desires to be with us and for us. Out of great love, God chooses to be found in places of despair and suffering; God chooses to be found on the cross.”2 

But God also shows us in His Resurrection from the dead that these places of despair and suffering are about to be broken through, that an all-new reality is bursting forth from the grave, for even now, “upon those in the tombs He is bestowing life.” Presently. And always.

So let’s take up our crosses, walk the path of following Christ, who is Risen from the dead, trusting that as we walk with Him in the likeness of His death, so, too, will we live with Him forever in the likeness of His Resurrection.

-Christian Gonzalez

1 St. Athanasius, trans. A Religious of C.S.M.V., On the Incarnation (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood: 1993), p. 54.

2 Andrew Root, The Promise of Despair (Abingdon Press, Nashville: 2011), p.84.

Christian is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, and occasional CrossFitter. He works full-time as a child and adolescent therapist, and in his off-time likes to devote his mental energy to the Church and the Church's ministry in and to the world. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

______________

For more:

For more on our salvation in Christ, check out this episode of Be the Bee:

For more on the Resurrection, check out this episode of Be the Bee:

— 5 Items per Page
Showing 2 results.
Sam Williams
Posts: 65
Stars: 0
Date: 10/10/17
Steven Christoforou
Posts: 27
Stars: 0
Date: 10/6/17
Dr. Alexandros K. Kyrou
Posts: 25
Stars: 10
Date: 10/3/17
Rev. Dr. Tony Vrame
Posts: 24
Stars: 1
Date: 9/29/17
Christian Gonzalez
Posts: 75
Stars: 8
Date: 9/20/17
Nicholas Anton
Posts: 5
Stars: 0
Date: 9/1/17
Andrew Calivas
Posts: 3
Stars: 0
Date: 8/22/17
Anthony Constantine Balouris
Posts: 9
Stars: 0
Date: 6/28/17
Maria Pappas
Posts: 25
Stars: 0
Date: 5/12/17
Andrew Romanov
Posts: 8
Stars: 0
Date: 4/27/17