The Hierarchy of Holidays
I was doing my morning rounds of the radio news and talk programs when I heard two gentlemen discussing the issue of public religious displays. One of the men was Jewish and the other an evangelical and in the course of their discussions, one said that "Christmas was THE biggest Christian holiday" and then he paused and added, "I suppose Easter ought to be, but..." and the other gentlemen interrupted and said, "Well Easter is more reflective while Christmas is more celebratory."
I suppose this is the popular way of things today. However, as we Orthodox ought to know there is much in both feasts to reflect upon and our Liturgics themselves make it clear which is the "feast of feasts."
As if the actual practice of celebrating both does not make clear which is the bigger event in the calender life of the Church.
Feast and celebrations evolve and change - even in Orthodoxy (GASP!). I wonder when the shift began to happen in the west whereby Christmas became the bigger celebration? Is it possible that theology plays a role in it?
For my part - and I am willing to admit that I was not perhaps properly taught - the Resurrection was always little more than a "told ya so!" event. And thus, it always seemed that Good Friday was the REAL event of Easter, that moment when "substitutionary atonement" actually takes place and God's righteous wrath is directed at His Son instead of us. When Jesus uttered the words "It is finished", nothing more really needed to happen in order to save us. And so I wonder if my (and the west's?) emphasis makes us apprehensive of having too big a celebration of someone's torturous death (even if they are Resurrected)?
Wow, what an astonishingly different perspective I have now. Instead of God's wrath being poured out on His Son, it is meeded out through His Son onto Death, the devil, and Hades whose bonds and barred gates He shatters. The great Passover! The great victory! If a triumphant army returns after defeating the most horrible, threatening, overlording and seemingly unsurmountable enemy you will of course have yourself one humdinger of a party.
It almost seems to me that Christmas ought to be the more reflective Holiday, as compared to what we have to celebrate in Pascha. The grand and glorious mystery of the incarnation becomes real in a flesh and blood human baby. Most every Icon of the Theotokos speaks to us about this profound event as she directs our attention to her infant: God.
Our most Holy Lady's image is - I think - always and image of the Nativity and during this "second most wonderful time of the year", I find myself particular drawn to her Image, the very same image we see over and over and over again. But (rightly or wrongly), I tend to see now with different eyes...more reflective eyes. And, yes, more celebratory eyes too...it is almost Christmas after all!
I look forward to our first real country Christmas.
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The Hierarchy of Holidays