On this day of Pascha, I offer to you the radiant words of St. Paul, who we honor as the Apostle to the Nations:
“Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
Thirty-seven years ago, I submitted to being ordained an Orthodox priest in order to follow in St. Paul’s footsteps: to hand over to you what I received: our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. My hope was and is to remain focused on Christ, faithful to the Gospel, practicing Orthodox Christianity in such a way as to be a faithful witness to Christ. At Pascha, we celebrate the culmination of our spiritual lives and our Lenten efforts as we encounter the risen Lord and experience Christ who is the Good News. Lent and Pascha are not about eating or not eating meat and dairy products. They are about our living relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord and our commitment to His Body, the Church, in which we find salvation. Pascha is God’s own acceptance of death in order to give us eternal life. The Christian Faith and the Paschal Feasts are summed up well by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, who inspired me to choose Orthodoxy as the way to know God:
“Death is . . . man’s rejection of life in God. It is the rejection of God for the sake of man’s life in and for himself, the result of man’s alienation from God in whom alone is life and the life of man. Death, therefore, must be destroyed as the spiritual reality of man’s separation from God – hence, the gospel, the Good News. Christ has destroyed death by trampling it with his own death. . . . Under the guise of death, Divine Love itself enters Sheol, overcoming the separation and solitude. Dispelling the darkness of hades, Christ’s death is a divine and radiant act of love, and in his death, therefore, the spiritual reality of death is abolished. Finally, the Christian gospel announces that with Christ’s resurrection a new life – a life which has no death in it – is given to all those who believe in him and are united with him.” (THE LITURGY OF DEATH, pp 45-46)
In the Paschal Liturgy, we celebrate everything I believe and want to share with you. In the darkness, in the middle of the night, we are illumined by the resplendent Light which is Christ. Jesus sought out the gloom of Hades to find those hidden by the shadow of death. We came out in the pitch darkness of the night to see Christ and all those who are alive in Him. The glorious joy of the resurrection enlightens our hearts and shines light wherever there is darkness.