Orthodox 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.