Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I don’t believe that anyone would argue that, this time of the year, is most beautiful. Spring lifts our minds and spirits as we come out of the winter months and look ahead to the warmer months of summer.
It’s at this time of the year that we also celebrate the gift of the new and everlasting life that is offered to us through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Before this month is out, we will once again join together to celebrate the solemn and beautiful services of Pascha, the Passover of our Lord: his passing over from death to life, from bondage to freedom, from darkness to light.
The brightness of these days is our own participation in the “true life” spoken of by Saint Gregory Nazianzus (+390). We can see this life all around us in nature.
In his homily on Pascha, St. Gregory describes many things in nature that reveal to us this new life springing up all around us. He says that everything is “conspiring together, rejoicing together, for the beauty of this feast.”
Everything all around us is hymning Christ who has sprung up from the tomb in order to bestow life on the whole world. He begins:
“Now the heaven shines more brightly, the sun stands higher and glows more golden; now the moon’s orb is more radiant, the chorus of stars gleams more clearly. Now the sea’s waves make their peace with the shores, the clouds with the sun, the winds with the air, the earth with the plants, the plants with our eyes. Now the springs gush forth with a new sparkle; now the rivers flow more abundantly, released from the bonds of winter’s ice. Now the meadow is fragrant, the shoots burst forth, the grass is ready for mowing, and the lambs skip through the rich green fields… All things sing God’s praise, and give Him glory with wordless voices. Now is the world’s spring, the spiritual spring, spring for our souls, spring for our bodies, spring visible, spring invisible.”
How beautiful are these words that express even creation’s response to Pascha.
In celebrating Pascha, there are really two Paschas that we celebrate. The first is our Lord’s and the second is our own. And ours is rooted in and made possible by the Lord’s: our Passover from death to life is made possible by Christ’s glorious resurrection. We are those in the tombs whom Christ has come to free and release.
Like Adam and Eve portrayed in the icon of the Descent into Hades, we are being yanked out of the slumber of death. It is during the radiant days of Pascha that we must continue to shine forth the glory of Christ’s resurrection by a radiant life.
What we also celebrate is our own passing from the tyranny of sin and death to victory and joy in the Kingdom. Just as during Great Lent we learn to fast and prepare ourselves to meet Christ, so must we learn how to truly celebrate the feast.
Feasting is not just about eating meat and dairy products. True Christian feasting, especially at Pascha, is a continual offering of ourselves to Christ. It is a feast of renewal where we put off the old man, and walk in newness of life (Ephesians 4:22).
“Let your old person become new! Celebrate the renewal of your soul!” says St. Gregory, stressing to us how we can continue to celebrate the Resurrection. He urges us to:
“Put restraints on everything that is the source of death, train all your members, develop a hatred for all the evil fruit of the tree…This is the way a human person is renewed, this is how the Day of Renewal should be honored: with this kind of finery, with a banquet such as this!…Bring this as your offering to the festival: be changed for the better…Scripture does not wish you to remain always as you are, but to be constantly in motion, beneficially in motion, even ‘a new creation’;—if you are a sinner, turning towards the good, and if you are upright, holding to your course.”
May the remaining days of our Lenten fasting lead us to true feasting and may the Lord receive our Lenten efforts as an acceptable offering. And may the upcoming celebration of the Lord’s Pascha be bright and joyous for you and your family.