Relative to Pascha

karl_bryullov-christ_resurrected_1840sIf you have attended Pascha services, or served them, it is quite possible to suffer some of the “natural consequences,” which for me means that after a somewhat disordered sleep I am sitting, having coffee and writing at 3:30 in the morning, wide-awake. I have no complaints. I generally like to be up by around 5 or so, so I am only off by a couple of hours…. There is also the Bright Monday Liturgy to be served this morning as well.

It underlines in the language of sleep, that things are all relative to Pascha. Rightly observed, we do not adjust the Pascha to fit the world, but rather the World to fit Pascha. Even if the time of services may be adjusted somewhat in some places, it remains the case that we must be “adjusted” to fit Pascha.

The simple reason is that everything that exists does so only in relation to this event. This is Creation. This is salvation. This is purification and deification. Everything we want and everything we are must find its basis in Pascha or it will find no basis at all (utimately).

We are told in Scripture that the “Lamb was slain from the foundation of the earth” (Rev. 13:8). What takes place at Pascha is more than a resurrection that holds out promise to the human race for everlasting life. When viewed in such a manner, humanity becomes the center and the meaning of Pascha. Rather we are told that creation itself is groaning for this very thing. The description of Good Friday to Pascha in Scripture (which is one long event), is replete with creation’s reaction. The sun is darkened – an earthquake shakes Jerusalem (there is to this day a long split in the rock beneath Golgotha, said to date to that earthquake). What occurred was more than the moral tidiness of God, but an event that is both the foundation and the meaning of all creation.

Pascha, in its eternal consideration, is simply older than all creation (Rev. 13:8). It underlines the fact that “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten son…” The Son was given before ever Adam and Eve drew their first breath.

Thus when we encounter Pascha in our own day and age, it is not simply a piece of ancient Church ceremony. We stand as witnesses to the foundation of the earth. Time does not exist for us in Pascha, or rather, time begins in Pascha. 

I stood in the altar Saturday night, and looked over to a clock in the Sanctuary. We were running “late.” We had already passed the published time for the beginning of the service –  but people continued to arrive. My deacon looked over to me, smiled, and said, “Pascha is never late.” 

For some days to come, I am sure that my internal clock will operate on “Pascha time.” I only hope and pray that the rest of me will remain forever set to that event – that might life become a Pascha for everyone around me. St. Seraphim of Sarov, regardless of the time of year, greated everyone with, “Christ is risen!” For those who met him – they met Pascha in the form of humbled, bent-over Russian staretz. May Pascha greet you in a hundred ways today and may others who meet you encounter Pascha as well. 

Christ is risen!

Comments

  1. Margaret says

    He is risen indeed!
    May God bless you and your family for your service as He blesses our lives through your thoughtfulness.

  2. Mrs. Mutton says

    I’m forwarding this to my husband who, every year, wonders why the celebrations *have* to take place at midnight. (He’s not Orthodox.) Thanks for this, Father, and — Christos voskrese!

  3. says

    Got home at 2:00 am after Paschal Matins. In the morning I was narrowly preserved from causing a massive pileup as I went through a red-light at a busy intersection on my way to church. After the emotional release of the morning Liturgy, and three small glasses of red wine at the following brunch, I inadvertantly stole a loaf of bread from my priest thinking it was left out to take. (Why would I think that? I asked myself in this morning’s cold dawn as I lay on my bed in sudden wakefulness.)

    In my case “natural consequences” seem to take weird and dangerous forms, but I’m rested up now and only a little of the hilarity remains.

    My own priest says he did not sleep at all between Matins and Liturgy, so that is probably common. On the other hand, part of the reason he could not sleep is because Matins had been such a disaster. Next year, he tells me, (in my capacity as shell-shocked choir director having just gone through my very first Orthodox Holy Week) we are switching to the OCA book and doing all the Odes on one melody. Apparently former choir directors felt that there needed to be a different melody for each Ode. (Why would they think that? I asked myself in the cold dawn as I lay on my bed.)

  4. John in Denver (but not John Denver) says

    “It underlines in the language of sleep, that things are all relative to Pascha. Rightly observed, we do not adjust the Pascha to fit the world, but rather the World to fit Pascha.”

    I was just discussing this with a fellow parishioner yesterday at our post-Agape vespers Pascha meat fest (or tofu/soy fare) meal.

    What an odd Feast this Pascha is. We start services somewhere around 10:30pm, go until 2:30 or 3 in the morning, and then sit down to have meats and cheeses and all sorts of things we haven’t had for the last 40+ days. Then we try to go home and go to bed for a few hours, only to return later in the day for more services and more food! What a strange way to go about things! But, after reading your post, Fr., I totally understand and I think I love the oddness of it all even more! lol

    Why SHOULD we seek our own comfort when celebrating the most important reality in all of life? It only makes sense that we get a little “screwy,” if you will.

    [Hey, I just noticed there’s a little smiley face at the very bottom of this page on the blog – :) ]

  5. Karen says

    Indeed, He is risen!

    I celebrated in a packed crowd (so packed our candles had to be confiscated on the way back into the Nave after the procession because of the fire hazard at such close quarters!). The procession and proclamations of the clergy (multiple clergy and languages in my parish) were a riotous cacophony of joy amidst the jubilant refrain of the Paschal hymn: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!” I wonder all the neighbors didn’t come out to see what was happening (but perhaps they did and I just didn’t see notice them since I was in the middle of the crowd). I was much better rested this year than last and was able to to stay alert throughout and sing to my heart’s content without flagging! (Last year’s experience was much more like AR’s. My new parish has all arranged for congregational singing and requires choir only for funerals and weddings). I especially love singing the Paschal Canon and “The Angel Cried.” I’ll be singing along with my Archangel Voices “Resurrection!” CD this week.

    Joyous Bright Week!

  6. J.D. of Wharton (but not J.D. Wharton) says

    I am an inquirer who was able to participate in much of the services during the Lenten season.

    Can someone give me the Cliff Notes on “Bright Week”? I’ve not heard the term yet.

  7. says

    Bright Week is the name given to week following Holy Week. There is no fasting and they are considered days of unrestrained joy. There is a folk teaching that, just like the doors of the iconostas (which stay open for all of bright week) so the doors of heaven stay open and there is no judgmeng. Thus, in a folk belief, it is thought quite good fortune to die in bright week. I have even seen congratulations offered by some during a funeral for someone who passed in bright week.

    The teaching is a folk custom and not Church doctrine. In truth, Pascha is eternal, the gates of heaven stand open to us at all times.

    Fr. Stephen (actually Fr. Stephen but known to my children as “Papa”)

  8. says

    Father Stephen: Thank you for this Ministry-of-the-Web. My wife and I are in the first third of a Read-the-Bible-in-a-Year project in our (Anglican) church. I stumbled across your wonderful Blog while searching for fasting guidelines and have bookmarked the site for daily reading. You’ve become a mentor in this journey. In my former secular (newspaper) life, I always considered myself in the first rank of cynics with a sensitive BS Meter. What a pleasure to find someone committed to spreading the truth in a New Age. The biggest lesson we’ve learned thus far is that the first year is only a beginning! One of life’s great gifts/responsibilities is being called “Papa” by your children; true love is when a grandchildren cries “Papa” and launches himself/herself into your arms.
    God Bless. You’ve shown us how high the bar is set and how worth/tough/impossible it is to reach.

  9. says

    wgriff,

    I do have one grandson – but his father (also an Orthodox priest) beat me to the title “Papa.” I have happily settled on being “grandpapa.” And it will indeed be a special day when that little one (about 9 months or so) says “Grandpapa.” His father serves in a Russian parish – so I could have been “Dedushka.” :)

  10. Vasiliki Didaskalou says

    I woke up on Bright Monday and called work to let them know I was physically ill from Easter – they couldnt understand how tired I was since most Greeks do not liturgise the Holy Week to the extent that they should …

    So try telling work that my body clock should adjust to Pascha and not pascha to my work clock …

  11. Theodora Elizabeth says

    Vasiliki, many American Orthodox I know take Bright Monday off from work, if at all possible. I definitely did!

  12. says

    Truly He is Risen!

    Thank you for these wonderful reflections; I read, during Holy Week, the Revd John Behr’s “The Mystery of Christ” which speaks similarly of the Passion being the centre and purpose of Creation: a new way, for me, of looking at it — but one as you write that is truth.

  13. says

    I am happy to find your writings. Hope all is well. Wish I could talk to you, I have so much respect for you and the purpose to your life for which you have been called. Too much caffiene is not good for you, I see you are still drinking coffee.