CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! It’s Sunday, May 2nd 2021 and I am winding down from the greatest and oldest Christian feast day. Pascha is the celebration of Jesus Christ rising from the grave having total victory over death and sin. As I said before in a previous article, the Orthodox Church calculates this day according to the older Julian Calendar and not the current Gregorian. Even though some of us may celebrate the Lord’s Nativity (Christmas) on December 25th instead of January 7th, our various jurisdictions keep the traditional day of Pascha continuing the decision made during the first Ecumenical Council of 325 AD.
Pascha is the summation of our 40 day observance of Great Lent with Holy Week. After such a long period without meats (including fish with bones), dairy products, and alcohol; we all look forward to sharing food with each other after the Midnight Services into the wee hours of the morning. After a few hours of sleep, we go back to church for more services and feasting. Between now and the Ascension of Christ, we greet one another with a hearty, “Christ is Risen,” replying with, “Indeed He is Risen!”
Speaking for myself, it is good to be reminded that Jesus did conquer death and sin. It is very easy and tempting to forget the reason for this feast being stuffed with gumbo washed down with a Guinness Stout. Such a forgetfulness will lead one back to the sins that he, or she, sought to overcome with fasting and prayers at the start of Lent. The advice attributed to Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina rings in my ear, “Do not spill your grace.”
It is no accident that the Church Fathers assigned Romans 6:3-11 as the Epistle reading for the day before Pascha. To quickly summarize, If we have been baptized in Christ, we have put Him on ourselves. Our old selves are to be put to death as we now live for Him. We are to be dead to sin and alive in the Lord. Feasting on lamb, feta, meat-lovers pizza, and having a shot of liquor in celebration of Jesus rising from the tomb is all well and good. Now, we have a challenging responsibility, to live as victoriously over death and sin as He was.
Hopefully, Great Lent has helped us acquire some tools to help us meet the challenge. Remembering the stress of fasting, making prostrations while offering the prayer of St. Ephrem, attending Akathist, Pre-sanctified Liturgy, and Holy Week services, making confession, reading more scripture and a spiritual book or two; a good observance of Lent helps remind us of how important of a day Pascha is. While weekly fasting may not be required now, careful eating is always a good idea. A prayer rule can be adjusted anytime. The Bible and the plethora of soul strengthening books are available. Talk to your spiritual father or mother for guidance.
Pascha is a point to move forward to bring the soul to be one with Christ. Let’s all enjoy the feasting and fellowship. But, let’s not lose sight of the reason why we eat and drink. CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!