Pascha

 

PASCHA 2018 

Beloved in the Lord, 

Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

"Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free." (Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom) 

When the holy Evangelists speak of the Lord's Passion they spend relatively little time on Christ's physical suffering. The beating, the crown of thorns, and the cross itself were enough to convey the message that what Jesus went through was unimaginably painful. Instead, the Gospels emphasize the emotional and spiritual suffering that our Lord experienced in the passion, the mocking of the crowd, the betrayal and abandonment by his disciples. This internal suffering was so great that in the Garden of Gethsemane "his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Luke 22:44) 

The scriptures describe the devil as one who sows seeds of dissent and division. Sin results in broken communion, or in simpler terms, isolation. When we sin, two emotions take over our lives. We become ashamed of what we have done, and afraid that others will find out. As a result of our shame and fear, we distance ourselves from other people, even from those whom love us the most, even from God himself. 

In his crucifixion, our Lord Jesus Christ identifies with us in our moments of most profound shame and loneliness, taking them upon himself, so that we do not have to endure them. When sin is overthrown, there is no longer anything of which to be ashamed or afraid. 

Moreover, the Gospel does not end at the crucifixion. Christ’s life-giving passion leads to his radiant resurrection. In his resurrection, all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are invited to partake in his glory. We are not simply “let off the hook” for our sins; we are lifted up out of the mire of sin and death by the possibility of entering into communion with the life-giving Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

Thus, our Paschal celebrations are marked by the intense joy of a community gathered together to joyfully proclaim, “with one mouth and one heart,” that Christ is Risen from the dead. In his Paschal Homily St. John Chrysostom declares: 

“Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor 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.”

At the feast of the Nativity we celebrated Christ as "Emmanuel" — "God with us." This celebration finds its penultimate realization at Pascha, in a God that is with us, even in the most shameful and lonely places in life, a God who was with us even in the grave, to open up for us a way to be with him unto ages of ages.

 

With love in the risen Christ, 

+ Alexander

Archbishop of Toledo and the Bulgarian Diocese – Orthodox Church in America