Christ is Risen!
There are not a lot of good things on social media these days, but one of the positive benefits is being able to instantly see videos of the Paschal Celebrations throughout the world. To see the joy radiating from all Orthodox Christians on that Great and Holy Night is something that always brings a smile to my face!
We can look at videos like the one from St. Elizabeth’s Convent in Minsk. The sisters, who were gathered up in the balcony overlooking the mass of people crammed into the Church, began to blow bubbles down on the faithful, while the choir sang “The Angel Cried…”.
Do I condone bubble blowing in Church? No, probably not…but the video serves as a great example of what Pascha is all about: Inexplicable and Child-Like Joy! The Grace in the Church that day is so powerful, that even if we don’t fully grasp the magnitude of what has happened in our minds, we can still feel it with our hearts! We gain new life as we celebrate the glorious reality, that Christ is Risen from the Dead, trampling down death by His own death, and upon us all, bestowing ever-lasting life!
The Paschal Joy is so great, and so unique, that it cannot possibly be contained in just a few hours! The celebration goes on for 40 glorious days!
The Church remains adorned in festive white covers, and our Lord’s Burial Shroud that was on the tomb on Holy Friday, continues to sit on the Altar table as a reminder of the empty tomb…for 40 days!
During the Divine Liturgy, we hear that hymn to the Theotokos “The Angel Cried”, where our ears always seem to perk up as we are reminded of that glorious feeling of the Resurrection…for 40 days!
We continue to greet each other and the rest of the world with the festive greeting of “Christ is Risen”…for 40 days!
For the rest of the world, it sometimes feels as if the day after Easter is a normal day (with the exception of the celebration of going to get the 50% off Easter candy at Walmart). I had a good friend of mine call me on Bright Friday, and I greeted Him with “Christ is Risen”, and his response was “Indeed He is Risen…but wasn’t that last week?” For some, the Resurrection is a one-day event, but for the Ancient Christian Church, we carry on like it happened yesterday!
Explaining the 40 days before Pascha is somewhat easy to do and to understand, especially with outsiders. I can use an image that I’m sure is fresh in most of our minds this morning, as we had a few days of decent weather this past week with which to clean up our yard and our gardens. We spend Great Lent cultivating and preparing the soil of our hearts. When we fast and increase our prayers, we learn how to literally pull out the weeds from our lives that might choke the Seed of Life that our Lord bestows upon us all at Great and Holy Pascha.
The reason we celebrate for 40 days AFTER Pascha, is to ensure that the new life and joy that was planted into the depths of our hearts, can take root and spread to the rest of our lives in the world. This is a key time for us as Christians! Just because we plant flowers, doesn’t mean that the weeds will never come back! The seeds of Pascha need watering, sunlight, and some careful attention, if they are to grow!
That being said, I want to end my homily this morning, by sharing with you a few ways to keep your personal Post Pascha celebration going, in order to allow those seeds of grace to grow more fully.
First and foremost, I strongly encourage each and every one of you to shout Christ is Risen DAILY. Years ago, I was visiting a Monastery in Detroit, where a wonderful Archbishop was visiting from Jerusalem during Bright Week. We entered into the quiet and empty Church, and with a tremendous smile and the innocence of a small child, this pious Archbishop started chanting with power “Christos Anesti…”. The light from his face was radiant when he belted the Pascha Troparion! It was beautiful, powerful, and a small habit that I learned to do every day that I walk into the Church or in front of my icon corner.
Brothers and Sisters, no matter what kind of mood you are in, how bad of a day you are having, or how many people upset you in the morning rush hour, there is nothing more fulfilling than learning the various “Christ is Risen” melodies…and belting them. If you aren’t comfortable singing it in front of people, go find a field, and make like Julie Andrews from the Sound of Music…and let it go!
Second, use the Pascha Greeting with everyone you come into contact with! Write it on your personal emails, say it to your kids, and use it during your before and after prayers at meal time. Don’t say “hello” when answering a call…say “Christ is Risen!” (maybe this will stop the telemarketers and social security thieves from calling!).
Say it often brothers and sisters, because there is no greater joy than proclaiming the Greatest Truth the world has ever known to one another!
Finally, and this one I can’t stress enough, never forget that Every Sunday is Pascha. The Russian word for Sunday is “Voskresenie”, and that is fitting, since it is at every Sunday Divine Liturgy that we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. The weekend services are precious to us brothers and sisters…and are absolutely, 100% necessary for us to be able to live as Christians in the midst of a fallen world.
Always remember the wonderful lesson that we took from the Gospel Reading on St. Thomas Sunday: When we miss one Sunday…we miss a LOT!
May God give us all the strength to continue to expand the love and joy that we receive over these next few weeks. allowing us to spread hope, life and light to a world that is literally thirsting for something as positive, as God rising from the Dead!