What the Death and Resurrection of Christ Means to Me
Why I Believe in the Pascha of Our Lord
The mystery of Pascha has been, is, and will continue to be for me the awareness of a doorway into a reality of life that has no end; a new heavenly earth; a new creation. Despite my struggles with pride and self-will; the baptismal mystery of dying to a human nature that has been corrupted by sin resulting in death, and being raised into a maturing new person, a real human being in Christ Jesus; tells me that all things are possible with God. Provided we strive to abide in the baptismal mystery of Pascha and seek its ongoing renewal in the Eucharistic life in the Church. When I am able to face those things lacking in me and continue the journey of repenting of them and turning to our Lord; I am convinced that our Lord Jesus does not abandon us. He continues His work to mold our life into one of love, peace, joy, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control; and most importantly to continually draw us closer to His Father; through Himself (as the only mediator between God and Man), in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is only through this communion that we become truly human.
I think the problem with being able to realize the full joy and message of Pascha is that we don’t always believe in this mystery that transcends what we call life here. We fear the state of being without someone or something from this world. We are so encumbered with achieving a certain standard of living, seeking financial security or being able to care of our health; that they delude us into thinking that it is impossible to live without them. So we end up hanging onto them even more so. We expend a lot of energy and time figuring out how to keep what we have and so as not to lose it. It leads to walking a treadmill of enslavement. No wonder why it is easy to forget God in this world. All these are anchored in a fear that is encouraged by a world without God that says you have to have money, sex, or power or you are nothing. We increase the years we live in order to cheat death which only causes more problems and complications. Or if it is not earthly security we need then we often live by the phrase “you only live once, so grab for all the gusto you can get.” Both are a denial of the Paschal mystery. So many of the things that keep us enslaved to this world and which are not grounded in the Paschal mystery are based on a fear, a fear of not having. I can’t live if I can’t eat or indulge in what I want when I want it. I can’t live if I can’t enjoy sexual pleasure when I want with whomever I want; irrespective of its relationship to marriage as a sacrament. I can’t live if I can’t be liked by all even it means compromising my faith in Christ and not doing what is right in order to garner this favor.
All of this is eventually grounded in the fear of all fears; the fear of death; the fear that there is nothing beyond the grave. To this fear I can only offer the words of St. John Chrysostom from his Paschal sermon, “Let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free.” What does this freedom look like? It is manifested in the lives of thousands of saints (past and present) who gladly and thankfully face torture and death because they refuse to renounce Christ as Lord and Savior. They drink the cup that Christ drinks, and are baptized with the baptism of Christ; His passion on the Cross. They are so convinced of the Good News of the Gospel that they renounce the world and joyfully anticipate and wait for life in His Kingdom which has come and is coming. Read the life of our own patron Saint George to see for yourself! Our Lord announced this Good News to the world at the start of His public preaching. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” They don’t trust in “princes and sons of men in whom there is no salvation” but seek His Kingdom that is not of this world.
If you are like me who at times gets discouraged with the tendency to take this gift for granted and continue doing things that I don’t want to do, I offer the words of John Chrysostom: “Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again, for forgiveness has risen from the grave.” If you feel you are hopeless and feel all is lost, remember Chrysostom says in the same sermon our Lord invites those to the agape banquet whether we have come at the first hour or at the eleventh hour; those who have kept the fast, those who have not. Repentance is not about yesterday or tomorrow but today.
The key is to stop living in the past or not base present actions on the infamous words, “What if?” This thought is wonderfully expressed in the exapostilarion from Holy Friday Matins. “The wise thief thou didst make worthy of Paradise, in a single moment O Lord. By the Wood of the Cross illumine me as well O Savior and save me.” The thief knew he wasn’t entitled to anything and also said in front of the other thief and the Lord, that he deserved what he had coming to him. Yet in his boldness he asked, “Remember me, O Lord when You come into Your kingdom.” We know the Lord’s answer, “TODAY you will be with Me in Paradise.” This single moment of the thief’s discovery is an eternal moment, the moment of TODAY! Let us make the thief’s confession our confession. Let us understand that this confession in making it our own, unites all of us into one family in Christ; a heavenly family that knows no nationalistic boundaries; a family who’s citizenship is not of this world. May this Paschal season be a time where we can come to know this joyous, liberating, and eternal moment of TODAY! Christ is Risen! Fr. Paul