Reflections on Pascha
~ by Fr. Noah Bushelli ~
Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is risen!
With these most joyous words, we celebrate the single most important event in history. I’ve been conscientiously preparing for and celebrating Pascha—the Greek word for Passover—for about a quarter of a century now, and I have a couple thoughts to share with you.
First, it is all too easy for us to think of Pascha as a single day. Indeed, in this mental picture we have forty days of austerity punctuated by an all-night event filled with religious fervor and culinary indulgence. Then we scrape ourselves out of bed on Monday morning and return to work, to our regular life. Let me add depth to this understanding: There is a single day of Pascha, but it is not unique, in that every Sunday—truly every day—is a mini celebration of the Christ’s resurrection. Again, there is a single day of Pascha, and yet it is not only the climax of Holy Week, Great Lent, and the entire Church Year—though we do know that “we live from Pascha to Pascha”—but also the celebratory beginning of Bright Week, the forty Days of Pascha, and the Pentecostarion (fifty days after Easter). Even more so, it is the festal marking of the change of cosmic status, the upgrade and deliverance, for us, the Church, and all of humanity. Not a single day, but the day of days, a foretaste of eternity, the yeast of heaven mixed into the dough of our earthly tedium. . .
Second, it is easy to focus in on one part of the Paschal Mystery and overlook the magnificent whole. It is not just Christ’s Triumphal Entrance soured by treachery; not just the institution of the Eucharist; not just Christ’s dying to pay for our sins; not just His resting to fulfill the Sabbath perfectly; not just His resurrection. It is truly the re-creation of the world that we celebrate. Not just a historical event, but an event that focuses, shapes, and elevates history. Not a single day, but truly Day One.
Third and finally, this Feast of Feasts is a celebration of our own Pascha—our own personal and communal Passover—and participation in the Passover from Death to Life, darkness to light, slavery to freedom, and nothingness to existence. Pascha is the royal cloth upon which the needlework of our lives comes to fruition. It means that the coldness and darkness and rottenness of the grave is no longer a “dead end” for our dear family and friends or even for ourselves; and therefore we proceed through life with zeal, courage, and joy!
We needed an Incarnate God, a God put to death, that we might live. We were put to death together with Him, that we might be cleansed; we rose again with Him because we were put to death with Him; we were glorified with Him, because we rose again with Him. —St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 45.28
Brothers and sisters, this event should not be an excuse to go back to bad habits of self-indulgence, but rather the means and motivation to bring “the Light that is never overtaken by night” to our darkened world.
May we prepare for and celebrate this Festival of Festivals, ever more gratefully and zealously, for many, many years as a foretaste of the “Day that has no Evening.”