Bright Week – such a marvelous phrase – descriptive theologically and in many other ways of the time after Pascha. If we only knew, we all live in Bright Week – despite the fasting that we take up from season to season – despite the disasters that plague our earthly sojourn – still, we are all living in Bright Week.
In Bright Week, the Bridegroom has come, and the friends of the Bridegroom cannot fast.
In Bright Week, even the structure of an Orthodox funeral changes.
A dear friend of mine and among the founding members of our parish was killed in a car wreck during Bright Week of 1998. Devastating is the only word I know to describe our hearts. On Pascha, she and her husband had been Chrismated, and on Bright Wednesday she was gone.
But the life of the Church, in its own unique way, brought all of us back to Holy Week and Pascha. On Bright Friday, we had a Pannikhida at the funeral home. Just the Friday before I had been with her as we all knelt and venerated Christ in the tomb. Now the tomb of Christ was the tomb of a Christian and it was unmistakeable to all of us that the One tomb contained all tombs.
We buried her on Bright Saturday, as I recall. A Bright Week funeral essentially consists in hymns from the service of Pascha. Every element of human mourning seems to be swallowed by the joy of Christ’s resurrection. There is even an old Orthodox folk-saying that anyone who dies in Bright Week does not incur judgment. That same sense of God’s radical invitation into the Kingdom (proclaimed by St. John Chrysostom’s Sermon on the night of Pascha) is reflected in the doors of the altar. None of them stand closed at any point in Bright Week. Everything that separates us from God seems removed.
I cannot celebrate Pascha, nor enter into Bright Week, without remembering my friend’s own entrance into a Bright Week that transcends every darkness. What is liturgical reflects the fullness of what is true. “Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave,” St. Chrysostom proclaims. Such brightness that breaks the heart – not with sadness – but with a brilliance that says this near-death experience of daily life cannot continue forever. It must either pass on to a deeper and sadder death – or be swallowed up by Life – by the brightness of the never-ending Day.
Christ is risen and not one dead remains in the grave. O Bright joy of Pascha!