From The Blog

Mission Monthly – April 2006

“For a true Christian, death is but a sleep until the day of resurrection, or a birth into a new life. And in solemnizing every week the resurrection of Christ, and with it our own resurrection from the dead, let us learn continually to die to sin, and to rise with our soul from dead works, to enrich ourselves with virtues, and not to sorrow inconsolably for the dead.”

St. John of Kronstadt

During this blessed Season of Repentance, as I prepare for Holy Confession, I find myself contemplating a certain “missing of the mark” that I feel needs more attention—a sin that is neither grave nor gross, yet one that somehow reveals a certain failure and exposes an area of my life that needs to be nurtured and strengthened.

Several years ago I had to accept a very unique and personal challenge when the Patriarchate of Antioch instructed her churches to encourage the traditional practice of suspending all fasting for the full forty days from Pascha to Ascension. It had always been my practice, as is generally done in the Slavic traditions, to suspend fasting for only one week after Pascha—Bright Week. The instructions we received from the Antiochian Archdiocese were that fasting is permitted but not requiredon Wednesdays and Fridays following Bright Week until the Feast of Ascension. As I have followed this discipline I have begun to see the beautiful wisdom of this practice. As Jesus Himself said in Luke 5:34, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” The “ascetical” practice is not simply a free pass to eat whatever and however much we want, but rather it is a serious aid to help us sustain the joy and awareness of the presence of the Bridegroom in this season of Brightness—for the full forty days!

On the great day of Pascha we fervently exclaim, “Christ is risen!” and for the following week or two we easily exchange this joyful greeting with one another. But in the weeks that follow there is always a decline in enthusiasm and in the exchange of this holy greeting. How difficult it is to sustain joy! In just a few weeks we will be given another opportunity to strive for brightness throughout the entire season of Brightness!

But as I now prepare for Holy Confession, I see that I must take it even one step further and consider not only how well I’ve been able to sustain the joy of Pascha throughout the forty days but also throughout the entire year. Each week as we gather to celebrate Sunday Divine Liturgy we are “solemnizing” the Resurrection of Christ. Each Sunday essentially is a mini Pascha. Listen to some of the phrases of the Resurrectional Troparia that are sung in the eight tones throughout the year: “When Thou, O Immortal Life, didst humble Thyself unto death” (Tone 2). “Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad” (Tone 3); “Thou didst shatter death by Thy cross (Tone 7); “Having learned the joyful message of the Resurrection” (Tone 4); “From the heights Thou didst descend, O compassionate One” (Tone 8). These are awesome words and they are for us – to remind us to sustain our joy, or if we fail, to return again and enter into the eternal celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection!

“Come, receive the Light!” May the light that illumines our footpath as we process around the church on Pascha night be the light that illumines the course of our entire life! May we truly be alive in Christ, dead to sin, enriched in virtue, hopeful in times of sorrow and transformed from death to Life!

Beloved, “Christ is risen!”