I feel so “lucky” to be where I am today…even though I suppose luck has little to do with it. God’s providence and what ever stupid role my freewill played into it (perhaps the latter is where luck may be aptly fit.)
Pascha/Easter will, for the rest of my life, be as it was this year and in the years previous: glorious and a living part of our family paradosis. My children will grown up loving Lent and the Paschal season. Memories of Mom and Dad rushing around cleaning and cooking, praying, burning crosses into doorjambs, cooking, singing, worshipping, busy busy busy...there is no doubt, our home is ALIVE! I have no similar experience in my own childhood, at least nothing that is remotely comparable. The everyday mundane is vanquished and something IMPORTANT is being prepared for...hurry, it's coming!
There is also the connection with our fellow parishoners and neighbors as they prepare with us and then also celebrate with us. It is a time when that great liturgical dance that I often speak about reaches its dramatic climax, though not to be confused with a grand finale (that is still coming).
I love the fact that the Orthodox Church has not just made me feel differently or think differently...she has changed most everything about me. She has added richness and texture to not only my life but also to the life of my family. She has united us, she has changed us, she continues to challenge us, she brings us joy and sadness, she shatters us, she rebuilds us, she leads us and we as a community (not as individuals with preferences) whose hearts are bent to the Holy Spirit lead her, she connects us to the past and shows us the “ancient landmarks” left for us, she unites heaven to earth in a very real way. She puts Christ on us in her Holy Baptism. McLaren speaks of a "Generous Orthodoxy"...indeed, with all due respect - I know something MORE generous. Too generous...painfully generous...gloriously generous...beyond imagination generous...radically generous, while remaining traditionally generous. Sometimes sinking, I am forced to tread water in the midst of this Generous Orthodoxy.
I really do not have the words…even as I look back to what I have written here I can see clearly that it does no justice to the wonder and thankfulness I feel. While I might be tempted to feel a bit of remorse for not having this wonder delivered to me long ago in my youth, I really do not. For the joy of this truly radiant feast overshadows that notion and the indescribably magnificent words of St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal Homily ring in my ears (Go ahead, read it aloud! Shout the ending as it seems so appropriate! Smile throughout!):
If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.
Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.
Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.
By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.
It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.
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