"Going Toward Easter"
By Janice Bidwell
Great Lent came and went, and I’m still traveling toward Pascha at a steady lumbering pace. My life is a series of peaks and valleys between the seasons, but my route never varies. This rhythm is unchanging, and yet different each year. This is the path I travelled as a child, and now I’m on this same Paschal path of my ancestors with my own children. The century is new, but the ancient pattern is timeless.
As we conclude this Paschal celebration it’s time for me to store away the Easter decorations, but I must keep my Paschal spirit right at the center of my heart. The pace and beauty of Holy Week brightens my faith, and keeping this light bright throughout the year is the focus of my journey toward God. The seed of Pascha is now planted in my soul, but I must nourish this seedling throughout the year. The joy of the Christ’s Resurrection is the central theme of Christianity, and of our life as a family. Our life extends beyond today; our journey is toward eternal life. . . .
“The center, the day, that gives meaning to all days and therefore to all time, is that yearly commemoration of Christ’s Resurrection at Easter. This is always the end and the beginning. We are always living after Easter, and we are always going toward Easter” (Alexander Schmemann, Easter in the Liturgical Year, 1963).
Living every day on a journey toward forever Easter is unnatural in the world today. It was unnatural for me as a child, and it’s unnatural for my children today. The rays of light which feed this Paschal seed help it grow deeper roots all year long, when it’s exposed to this steady light. Life within the Orthodox Church is also life at home, and Pascha does not end as I exit the doors of the church. My children must see the joy of Pascha live on within me and within our Orthodox community. This is the hope of our Faith and our hope as a family on this journey toward Easter. From Sunday to Sunday throughout the year the light of Pascha must shine, and each Sunday is a little Easter as we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.
A Living Spirit of Pascha
The joy of Pascha is there hiding within the smaller points of everyday living. It’s not in the wrapping of the package, but throughout the inside of life. If every moment of my life is a movement toward forever Easter, then I must be conscious of each movement reflecting this joy of Christ’s Resurrection. Every minute is a gift (even if some moments I would rather exchange), and seeing this joy is a central theme of life from Pascha to Pascha. Capturing the energy of Pascha within the smaller moments of my life passes this spirit of Orthodox living along through the generations and extends beyond the church on Holy Pascha, to each moment of living in the world.
“The only real thing, especially in the child’s world, which the child accepts easily, is precisely joy. We have made our Christianity so adult, so serious, so sad, so solemn that we have almost emptied it of that joy. Yet Christ Himself said, ‘Unless you become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of God,’ To become as a child in Christ’s terms means to be capable of that spiritual joy of which an adult is almost completely incapable” (Alexander Schmemann, Easter in the Liturgical Year, 1963).
As I experience the presence of God in the shadows of my life, I nourish this Paschal brightness. The seed of Pascha rests in the soul and continues growing throughout the seasons with this steady light. Sharing and nourishing the Paschal seed is seeing this brightness every day, even on cloudy stormy days. Reflecting this light towards my family guides us along the lumbering path toward Easter, and seeing this brightness in the world reflects my love for others and for God. The reflection of this light of God’s love is the spirit of Orthodoxy I learned from the generations of Orthodox Christians in my family, and is also the tradition within the broader community of the Orthodox Church. Love within the heart of one, moves the hearts of others all around. Going toward Easter, is going toward a loving God shining in the light of the world.
--Taken from www.antiochian.org and used with permission.
LIVING THE RESURRECTION CHALLENGE
When the Myrrhbearing Women came to the tomb of Jesus on the third day, the angel said to them, “He is not here, but is risen!” and they quickly brought the good news to the Apostles. Likewise, on the road to Emmaus, Christ joined two of His disciples and revealed Himself to them after He had broken bread with them. They, too, returned to Jerusalem and joyfully proclaimed that, “The Lord has risen indeed!”
In the Orthodox Church we are blessed to have the beautiful tradition of the Paschal Resurrection service. After we receive the light of Christ from the priest and proclaim, “Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!” some of us will remain until the end of the Resurrection service to receive Holy Communion, and to experience the “glory” and “splendor” of the “new and Holy Pascha.” Sadly, however, many will instead return home early carrying our lit candles, and conclude this “Feast of feasts” by merely keeping the tradition of making a cross in the doorway of our home and enjoying the delicious Paschal food.
What are some ways we as families can keep the flame from the light of the Resurrected Christ burning in our hearts after the Paschal celebrations have ceased? How can we continue to imitate the joy of the Myrrhbearing Women and the disciples who were visited by the Risen Lord? Here are some challenges:
- Focus on the fact that the Resurrection doesn’t end on Pascha—the Church gives us 40 days to celebrate it. We sing “Christ is Risen” in our daily prayers and we light our Pascha candle as a physical reminder of Christ’s coming out of darkness. We also continue to proclaim “Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!” every time we greet someone.
- If finding time to read the Bible hasn’t been easy, this is a great time to start. For your daily readings from Pascha until Pentecost you can follow the lectionary of the Church who, in Her wisdom, has chosen to focus on the Gospel of John and the Book of Acts. For younger children, you can read one of the many children’s Bibles or try to make the original more understandable at their level.’
- More than just with words, Christ spoke with His actions. Make Pascha a time for you and your family’s own “Paschal resolutions.” As a family, create a list of simple things you want to change or improve, but make it fun by creating a reward chart for parents as well as children. Make sure you hold each other accountable, but don’t forget to have fun!
- Bringing the light of Christ home means continuing all the good habits we have established through Lent and giving the “light” out to others. By continuing to pray, serve the needy, and witness to others in our daily activities, we keep the light of Christ bright.
--Taken from the Journey through Holy Week parent companion. To view the complete companion visit: www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/holyweekguide.