Pascha and Bright Week 2017 (PDF)

33953541641_cc8bfab63e_nI have gathered all of the 2017 posts from Pascha and Bright Week into one document for those who prefer to view them that way rather than having to navigate through the blog.  You can find all of those posts at Pascha and Bright Week 2017 (PDF).

You can find PDF links for all of the blogs I posted for each of the past 10 years for Great Lent, Holy Week, Pascha and many other topics at  Fr. Ted’s PDFs.

Bright Saturday (2017)

“Before the dawn Mary and the women came and found the stone rolled away from the tomb.  They heard the angelic voice: ‘Why do you seek among the dead as a man the one who is everlasting light?  Behold the clothes in the grave!  Go and proclaim to the world: The Lord is risen!  He has slain death, as He is the Son of God, saving the race of men.”  (Hours of Pascha)

The myrrhbearing women do not find Christ or Christ’s body in the tomb – the tomb is empty.  By itself it proves nothing – the women assume grave robbers have stolen the corpse of Jesus.

The women are not told to return to the tomb and make it a shrine – there are no relics there.  They are to tell the disciples to find Jesus, but not at the tomb, but rather in Gallilee.  The Apostles are told to go into all the world with the message of the resurrection – they aren’t told that meditating at the tomb of Jesus will make them holy.  They weren’t to turn the resurrection into religion, rather they were to show the world how they were transformed by the news of Christ’s resurrection.  Christ is eternal light not a resuscitated corpse that we can parade about in religious ceremony.  Our goal as Christians is not to make a pilgrimage to the holy sepulcher – we are given no such commandment.  Nor is the goal set annually to Pascha night.  Our goal is to live the resurrection so that everyone will come to embrace Christ our Savior. The myrrhbearing women may have had to go to the tomb to learn of the resurrection, but they are told they’ve come to the wrong place if they are looking for Christ.  He is not at the holy sepulcher, He is Lord of the Sabbath and of the universe.  He is known in the proclamation of the Scriptures and in the eating of the Eucharist.  He is Lord of the Sabbath and the universe.

Bright Friday (2017)

“Through death You transformed what is mortal, and through burial You transformed what is corruptible; for in a manner befitting God You made incorrupt and immortal the nature which You had assumed, since Your flesh did not see corruption and in a wondrous manner Your soul was not abandoned in hell.” (Pascha Nocturnes)

In the incarnation, God the Son, took on sinful, fallen human flesh.  He transfigures that flesh – transforming what was mortal and corruptible, making even the flesh incorruptible and immortal.

According to Genesis 2 when God created humans, God formed the dust of the earth into a body and then breathed life into that dust.  In the resurrection, God is no longer outside of creation, but has become creation, and from within renews human nature.  God in Christ takes on our fallen human nature, suffers death, and then transforms and transfigures the human nature and the human body which He has taken on in the incarnation.  No longer from the outside does God shape us and give us life, but now from within God transforms His creation.  Not from heaven, but from Hades does God transform us and give us eternal life depriving Hades of holding on to us, and restoring mortal human nature to life – ending humanity’s separation from God.

Christ as God enters into the place of the dead and saves not just souls, but the entirety of what it is to be human including our bodies.

 

Bright Thursday (2017)

“We celebrated the death of death and the overthrow of hell, the beginning of another life which is eternal, and in exultation we sing the praises of its source.  He alone is blessed and most glorious, the God of our fathers.”    (Pascha Matins)

Christ, the incarnate God, is the source of eternal life. By His death, He destroys death – Death cannot hold the Christ and is forced to surrender to God all those whom Death had held captive.  Christ is our liberator from death; salvation is liberation from bondage to Death.  The Gospel message which Christianity proclaimed to the world from the beginning: “Christ is risen from the dead!”  The implication is shocking: Christ defeats death, which is our enemy.  Christianity came to understand that all the suffering, sorrow, grief, impermanence, morbidity and mortality of this world results from our separation from God.  God in Christ is the Good Shepherd seeking us His lost sheep, separated from Him, battered by sin and hunted down by death.  Christ carries us to His safe haven, making a path to the resurrection through the grave and through Hades itself.  We will follow our Lord in faith and with love.

Bright Tuesday (2017)

“This is the day of resurrection.  Let us be illumined, O people, Pascha, the Pascha of the Lord.  For from death to life and from earth to heaven has Christ our God led us, as we sing the song of victory.”  (Pascha Matins)

In the book of Exodus, the Passover took the Jews out of  slavery in Egypt and put them on the road to the Promised Land.  Now, Christ who is the new Passover, leads us victoriously, not merely from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, but from earth to heaven and from death to life.  Our slavery to sin and death is brought to an end and we are brought to eternal life, where sickness, sighing and sorrow have fled away.  The Exodus of the Old Testament were a foreshadowing and a type of what was to come with Christ.

The Jews were commanded to commemorate the Passover each year, not to keep looking to the past, but as a prophecy, promise and reminder of what the Lord was going to do.  Those Christians who want to do a Seder to remember the Old Covenant Passover are looking in the wrong historical direction!  The Passover prepares God’s people for what God was going to do and is doing for all humanity in His Christ.  The Passover is not mostly about what God did for Jewish ancestors thousands of years ago.  Rather it is preparation for the future, for all that God is doing and is about to do for the salvation of all the world.    Even for us Christians, the resurrection – Pascha – is not looking backwards to what God did, but rather always looks forward to what God is doing now to move us to the eschaton, His heavenly Kingdom.

“… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:10-14, emphasis not in the original text)

Christ is risen! Truly, He is risen!

Bright Monday (2017)

“Pascha of beauty, the Pascha of the Lord!  A Pascha worthy of all honor has dawned for us.  Pascha!  Let us embrace each other joyously.  O Pascha, ransom from affliction!  For today as from a bridal chamber Christ has shown forth from the tomb and filled the women with joy saying: Proclaim the glad tidings to the apostles.”  (Pascha Matins)

Though the death of Christ stunned His disciples, causing them to flee into hiding because they feared for their own lives, His death turned out to be the source of the greatest joy for us humans.  Christ emerged from the tomb not as a zombie or the walking dead but as a glorious groom on His wedding day.  The resurrected Christ though having a physical body no longer seems to have been limited by His body but rather moved in and out of the physical world.  In the resurrected life, we are united to God, experiencing the divine life.  We now can proclaim the joyous good news to all the world: Christ is risen!

Bright Saturday 2016

“Lord Jesus Christ, our God!  Flood our souls with the radiant light of Your wisdom, that we may serve You with renewed purity and integrity.  Sunrise marks the time for us to begin our labors, but we implore You, master, to prepare in our souls a place for the day that never ends.  Grant us a share in Your risen life, let nothing distract us from the delights You offer, and by our tireless zeal for You, mark us with the sign of that day of Yours that is not measured by the sun.”  (New Skete Monastery, Matins prayer for Pascha)

Bright Week, the week following Pascha, is liturgically treated as the day in the city of God which knows no night (Revelation 21:25).  The Light of the Risen Christ shines morning and evening, through dawn and dusk.  All week long the hymns of Pascha Sunday are repeated as if the day itself never ends but continues uninterrupted by sunrise or sunset for the glory of God is the eternal Light in the City of God, and the lamb of God is its lamp (Revelation 21:23).

“The heavenly world is taking part in the liturgy. But more than that: the mysterious Host, the Crucified One and the Living One is entering the souls and the bodies of the faithful and hallows them, preparing them for Life Eternal. He comes to the individual soul that bows before Him in deepest self-condemnation and repentance, feeling herself unworthy that He should enter under the roof of her house: ‘for it is all empty and crumbling to pieces.’ But He enters and heals and sanctifies soul and body. And He comes also to the whole of the Church, and our common partaking of the One Bread makes us all one body. But the Eucharist points also to the sanctification and transfiguration of the whole created world. The wine from the grapes and the vineyards and the bread from the wheat of the field become His transfigured, His glorified Blood and Body. They are premises of the nature who all will be sanctified and glorified because the Word has become Flesh and has suffered and conquered Death.

So the Eucharist points also to the future plenitude, to His future coming in Glory. ‘You proclaim the death of the Lord, till He comes’ (1 Cor. 11:26). The Past – His historical death on Golgotha and His resurrection – is mysteriously united to His unutterable Presence – the Presence of the Glorified One, who is the One who presents Himself in sacrifice, and the Risen One simultaneously. And this mysterious flowing together of historical fact and mystical Presence is also a stretching forward to the fullness of the manifestation of His Glory.” (Nicholas Arseniev, Revelation of Life Eternal, pp 86-87)

Previous: Bright Friday

Bright Friday 2016

We Orthodox continue our week of rejoicing, celebrating daily the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout Bright Week.   The Church, the community of believers, was born in Christ – in His death and resurrection. One image the early Christians used is that in the same way that Eve was taken from the side of Adam (Genesis 2), so too the Church comes from the side of Christ – in the blood and water which poured forth from His pierced side.

We each participate in this death and resurrection through the sacraments of baptism and communion.  This is why in the early Church baptism of the catechumens was linked to the celebration of Pascha, the resurrection of Christ.  As St. Gregory the Theologian expressed it:  “Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; today I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; today I rise with Him.”

The Roman Catholic scholar Jean Danielou says:

“The marriage of Christ and the Church, which took place on the Cross, is continued throughout the whole Church by Baptism and the Eucharist: ‘The Word of God came down to earth to unite Himself to His Bride, willingly die for her, to make her glorious and immaculate in the bath of purification. For otherwise the Church could not conceive those who believe and bring them forth anew by the bath of regeneration, if Christ did not die anew, did not unite Himself to His Church and give her the power from His side, so that all those may grow up who are born into the baptismal bath. Baptism perpetually regenerates Christians by plunging them into the death of Christ, and the Eucharist continually makes them grow by giving them the strength which comes from His side, that is, by communion in His risen Body.” (The Bible and the Liturgy, p 206)

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Next: Bright Saturday

Bright Tuesday and Wednesday 2016

The week after Pascha, known as Bright Week, is a continuous celebration of the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann writes eloquently about what Orthodox believe about death and human mortality, and how the Christian vision of the human being and of death is so totally different from the non-Christian understanding.

“As for our own ultimate fate and destiny after death, this has gradually ceased being understood in the light of Christ’s resurrection and in relation to it. When we speak of Christ we say that He is risen, but about ourselves we profess the immortality of the soul, a belief which existed among Jews and Greeks long before the advent of Christ, and which to this day is the common belief of all religions without exception. As strange as this may sound, this is also a belief in which the resurrection of Christ is simply unnecessary. What has caused this peculiar divorce? The cause lies in our understanding of death, or rather, in our understanding of death as the separation of soul and body.

All pre- and non-Christian religions view the separation of soul and body not only as something ‘natural’, but as something decidedly positive, the soul’s liberation from the body, which interferes with its heavenly, pure and blessed spirituality. And insofar as human beings experience the body as the source of evil, sickness, suffering, and passions, so it naturally becomes the meaning and purpose of religion and religious life to liberate the soul from the ‘prison’ of the body, a liberation which reaches its climax in death. However, it must be emphasized as strongly as possible that this understanding of death is not Christian; indeed, it is incompatible with Christianity and directly contradicts it. Christianity proclaims, affirms and teaches that the separation of soul and body – which is our definition of death – is evil. This is what God did not create. This is what entered the world and enslaved it in opposition to God, in defiance of His plan, His will for the world, for man and for life. This is what Christ came to destroy.

But in order  to understand, or rather, fully to sense and feel this Christian awareness of death, at least a few words must first be said about this divine plan, which is partially disclosed in the Holy Scriptures and fully revealed in Christ – in His teaching, His death, His resurrection. Briefly and very simply, this plan may be sketched as follows: God created man with a soul and a body, or in other words, both spiritual and material. Man in the Bible is precisely this union of body, soul, and spirit. Man, as created by God, is spirit-filled body and incarnate spirit, and therefore any separation of soul and body (and not only their final separation in death), every rupture of their unity, is evil, a spiritual catastrophe.

This is also why we believe that the world’s salvation is God’s incarnation, His putting on flesh, a body – not ‘as if He had a body’, but a body in the full sense of this word: a body that gets hungry, gets tired, that suffers. Thus, separation of soul and body in death puts an end to life as the Scriptures define it, the body filled with the spirit, and the spirit incarnate within a body. No, in death man does not disappear, for created beings have no power to annihilate what God has called from non-existence into being. Yet in death man is buried into the darkness of lifelessness and powerlessness, he is given over to corruption and decay, as the apostle Paul says (cf. Rom. 8:21).

Let me repeat and emphasize that God did not create the world for separation, death, disintegration and decay. This is why the Christian Gospel proclaims that ‘the last enemy to be destroyed is death’ (1 Cor. 15:26). The resurrection is the world’s recreation in its original beauty and wholeness, in which material creation is fully permeated by spirit, and spirit is fully incarnate in God’s creation. The world is given to man as his life, and therefore, according to our Christian, Orthodox teaching, God does not destroy it, but transforms it into a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev.21:1), into the spiritual body of man, into the temple of God’s presence and glory in all that is created. ‘The last enemy to be destroyed is death…’

The destruction, this annihilation of death begins the very moment the Son of God, in His undying love for us, Himself freely descended to death and fills its darkness, its despair, its horror with the light of His love. This is why on Easter we not only sing that ‘Christ has risen from the dead…’, but that He is also ‘trampling down death by death.’”(Celebration of Faith: Sermons Vol. 1,  pp 94-96)

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Pascha and Bright Week 2015 (PDF)

All the blogs posted for Pascha and Bright Week are now available in one document, a PDF which you can find at:  Pascha and Bright Week 2015 (PDF). 

You can find links to all the Lenten, Holy Week and Bright Week blogs I’ve posted for the past years as PDFs at Fr. Ted’s Blog Series.   Each year I collect all of the posted blogs from the Lenten and Paschal seasons  and put them together as  PDFs.

I will also be gathering all of the blogs related to the Post-Paschal Sundays into a PDF which will be published after Pentecost.