From Friday to Friday

img_0965Orthodox and Western calendars rarely coincide on the question of the date of Pascha (Easter). They work with different numbers and come up with different answers. Thus it is that the common pattern obtains this year: Pascha one week apart. It is possible as an Orthodox Christian to ignore the world around you and pretend that the majority of Christians are not marking Good Friday today or that their Easter will come this Sunday. Admittedly, it can be hard to hold such things together. Besides, the cycle of services leading to Pascha begins tonight for Orthodox parishes.

But if we complain about things in the surrounding culture, it should not be a complaint about others celebrating our Lord’s death and resurrection. Would that the whole world stopped and gave those events their proper recognition. 

The death and resurrection of Christ are not entirely matters of calendar. How can the beginning of all things be held by a calendar? It holds the calendar and all calendars. On what day do we not remember that Christ tramples down death by death? Even on Pascha itself, we never forget the Cross – for the Cross properly belongs to Pascha.

Some of my readers have noted that I write in a fairly “existential” tone on the events of Christ suffering, death and resurrection. It’s not an invention of mine, but rather my discipleship to the lives and works of many modern saints and ascetics of the Church: Fr. Sophrony Sakharov; St. Silouan of Mt. Athos, et al. I believe it is the effective word to our generation (as St. Silouan believed as well). We have struggled for too long as Christians under the yoke of moralism, in which everything of Christ’s is interpreted in moralistic terms – geared only towards our legal admission into heaven. 

This moralism is a caricature of true Christianity. Were the impacts of Christ’s victory on our existence to be forgotten – the faith would be in danger of its own death. If moralism disappears – it will doubtless be replaced by another. Moralism is simple, useful for judging others, and plays well in a world dominated by its neurotic psychological fantasies.

To understand instead that sin is death – that it attacks us at the very point of our existence – is a different matter altogether. Humanity stands poised at the edge of an abyss – driven there by its own defiance of God – Who alone gives us life and all things. The daily events on the world stage are only a tragic opera that illustrate the inner drama of our lives. In our hearts we are the insane builders of weapons. We are the suicide bombers (a fitting image for much of our sin).

All of which brings us to the Cross of Christ. There, all the insanity of the world and its mad rush towards self-destruction is gathered in one lonely cry, “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?” Of course, in context, Christ is reciting Psalm 22 which is both a prophetic description of His crucifixion as well as a promise of His victory. But it is also an echo of the cry of our empty existence. On our lips, of course, it is a lie. God has not abandoned us – we have abandoned Him. But we feel abandoned, nonetheless.

But this is a day of great good news. For all of you who are sitting in hell (I reckon myself among your number on many days and only flee there because I am afraid to stay and pray for us all) Christ is coming to break down the doors and reveal the brightness of His resurrection.

Last September I sat in the tomb of Lazarus. My ears strained to hear the echo of the cry, “Come forth.” For the day is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God… Me we all hear His voice this year and every day of this year. May we be brought from the grave of our sins and into the glorious company of the saints in Light.

Comments

  1. says

    Father Bless!
    It is difficult (as you point out) to reconcile what is happening culturally & spiritually – regarding the date of Pascha – which is why I tend to separate the two in my mind- one is Easter & one is Pascha. I have been criticized for this in the past – perhaps it is a form of moralism: if I think one is better than the other (which I do). Thank you for pointing out that at least people are celebrating the Feast, I needed to hear that because it is easy to lose perspective when trying to be in the world but not of it.
    The whole topic of the word “better” is relative – I couldn’t seem to find a “better” word. Pascha is the fullness – Easter is for those who haven’t found the fullness of the faith – sort of a precursor, or foreshadowing. Christ is still there…

  2. Sean says

    Father,

    As you so accurately point out, Pascha is an event that surpasses notions of dates and calendars and takes place in every moment, inside every man.
    I do hope you will forgive me, though, for asking a question that has troubled me when considering the date of Pascha:
    I know that the date of Pascha is determined by the first full moon that follows the spring equinox. The difference between Orthodox and western dates exists because the Orthodox use the Julian Calendar for setting the date of the equinox, while western christians use the Gregorian calendar for setting the date of the equinox. Now, the question is, why do Orthodox who have adopted the Gregorian Calendar as their official ecclesial Calendar maintain the habit of calculating the date of Pascha using the Julian Calendar? Someone told me: “Because they want to celebrate Pascha with those who still use the Julian calendar as their official ecclesial calendar”, but is this a good enough reason? After all, if we want to keep the traditional church year we just stick to the old Julian calendar (like the Church of Jerusalem, the Church of Serbia, Russia, Mount Athos etc). Or is it because the Gregorian calendar was decreed by a Pope and is, as such, considered a “heretical” innovation (something that, in all honesty, I cannot comprehend)?