Pascha and Bright Week 2018 (PDF)

All of the 2018 posts related to Pascha and Bright Week have been gathered into one PDF and can be viewed at 2018 Pascha & Bright Week (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 Bright Week at  Fr. Ted’s PDFs.

Advertisements

Christ is Risen! Keeping It All in Perspective

Bright Monday: Christ is Risen!

One of the surprises of the Orthodox faith is that on Pascha night when we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, on the night in which we proclaim dozens of times: “Christ is risen!”, on the night in which all our hymns focus on the resurrection of Christ, the Gospel we proclaim at the Divine Liturgy is not one of the accounts of the Resurrection.  What we proclaim is John 1:1-17, which is not about finding the empty tomb or about Christ’s descent into Hades.    The Gospel we proclaim is often referred to as “The Prologue” – it is just the introduction to the book written by the Evangelist John.

And one reason that we read this Gospel at the Paschal Divine Liturgy is that it is about the big picture.  We are not just celebrating that one man, a good man at that, came back from the dead, though that would be a big enough event in its own right.   The Gospel for the Paschal Liturgy helps us see Christ’s resurrection in the big picture of the entirety of creation (the entire universe) and the entire history of the cosmos.   The Gospel takes us back to the beginning of Creation – In the beginning was the word (John 1:1).   We are taken back to the beginning of the Bible itself, back to chapter one of the book of Genesis, back to the big bang, the beginning of everything.    And we remember that in the midst of the total silence of nothingness, in the soundless vacuum, God spoke His Word and creation – time and space – came into being.  God said, “Let there be light” and there was light (Genesis 1:3).   It is God’s Word which causes creation to exist – causes us to exist.   And as we hear in John’s Gospel at the Paschal Liturgy, Jesus Christ is the Word of God.  It is He who caused all things to come into existence as we just heard – All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:3).

Out of the vacuum of nothingness and silence, creation was brought into existence by the Word of God.  Or, maybe into that empty void God caused creation to come into being.   Either way, there came to be something, rather than nothing by the Word of God.  By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth (Psalms 33:6).

And then, what we just thought about all during Holy Week – the impossible happened.  Creation – we creatures – endeavored to silence the Word of God.  We nailed him to the cross and He died.   No breath was found in Him.  He was sealed in a silent tomb, left voiceless and to rot back into nothingness.  Descending into the depths of Hades never to be heard from again.

Except, that on Pascha, the Word spoke again – out of the dead silence of Hades, God’s Word again called Light into existence.   From the muteness of Hades – from which no voice was ever heard on earth, God speaks to us.   Pascha night is a night of renewal for all creation for God again is giving light and life to the world, to all of creation, to us and to the entire universe.  From the tomb shines forth the Light of Life, and we hear the Word of God giving life even to the dead.

And God tells us even in death we don’t return to nothingness.  Even in death we do not cease to exist.  Death does not, can not, annihilate us because God the giver of life is more powerful than death, and the life God gives us is stronger than death.  Death does not end our life.

So we proclaim this Gospel of John 1:1-17 on Pascha night – a universal message, not just for Christians but the entire created universe.  The power of the resurrection is not limited to Christ or to Christians, but is offered to the entire human race.  Listen to the Gospel:

All things came into being through Jesus Christ (John 1:3)

The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it (1:5).

John came to bear witness to the Light – that ALL might believe through him (1:7).

Christ the true light enlightens EVERYONE who ever existed, who now exists or who will ever exist (1:9).

ALL who receive Him are given the ability to be God’s children (1:12).

ALL have recieved grace upon grace (1:16)

When we focus only on the resurrection of Jesus as a historical fact, we can easily lose sight of the universal and cosmic meaning of that message.   Everything in the world, and everyone in the world is found in the message of John’s Gospel.  We proclaim it this night because it includes all of us – as we heard in the catechetical homily of St. John Chrysostom, it includes all who diligently kept the fast and all who didn’t, all who labored from the 1st hour and those who came at the 11th hour, the sinners and the saints, the rich and the poor, everyone encompassed in the universal resurrection which our Lord has given to us all.

 

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)

Previous: Bright Thursday

Next: Bright Saturday