Prayer and Spirituality: Christianity
Easter: The Dawn Of The Brightest Day
During the services of this past week, the most intense week of the Christian year, we have more than remembered the experiences of our Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples. In our liturgical reenactment of the events recorded in the Gospel, we have actually participated in them and actualized them in our own experience; the technical term for this is anamnesis.
So we have seen everything Jesus did since His arrival in Bethany last Saturday; we have heard everything Jesus said. We were present when the repentant woman anointed Jesus, and we shared His Mystical Supper. With His holy mother and His dearest disciple, we stood at the cross as He cried out with our own cry of despair: ‘My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?’ (MT 27:46; MK 16:34).
As we worship at His tomb, we begin to realize that Christ Himself is the divine response to that cry, and we can only wonder at His immeasurable love for His creation: ‘Standing unworthily at Your life-bearing grave, we offer a hymn of praise to Your inexpressible kindness of heart, Christ our God. For You accepted the cross and death, most sinless Lord, so that, as the Lover of Mankind, You could grant resurrection to the world.’ (Oktoekhos, Mode 1, Saturday evening).
At midnight on Holy Saturday we return to the tomb with the women (MT 28:1-10; MT 16:1-8; LK 24:1-8; JN 20:1-18). With them, we hear the radiant good news first announced by the angels, the midnight dawning of the day which will never end: ‘Why are you looking among the dead for Someone Who is living? He is not here, but has risen!' (MT 28:6; LK 24:6; cf Kanon of Paskha).
Like the disciples who found the empty shroud, who encountered their Lord on the road to Emmaous, we can now tell everyone we know that ‘the Lord rose indeed!’ (LK 24:34).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the center of the Christian faith. St Paul remarks that, if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our preaching and our faith are in vain (1 COR 15:14). Indeed, without the resurrection, there would be nothing for Christians to preach, and nothing for Christians to believe. Christ's disciples would have remained the broken and hopeless band which John’s Gospel describes as hiding behind locked doors ‘for fear of the Jews’.
They went nowhere and preached nothing before they encountered the risen and living Christ, Who appeared among them even ‘while the doors were locked’. They wouldn't -- couldn't -- go forth, so He came in (JN 20:19). Then they saw and touched the wounds made on our Lord’s body by the nails and the spear; they ate and drank with Him. ‘A ghost has no flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ (LK 24:39). The resurrection of Christ then became the basis of everything the disciples said and did (Acts 2 - 4).
The resurrection reveals Jesus of Nazareth not only as the expected Messiah of Israel, but also as King and Lord of a new Jerusalem, a new world altogether: ‘I saw a new sky and a new Earth....the holy city, the new Jerusalem....And I heard a loud voice from Heaven, saying: “Behold the dwelling of God among mankind! Now He will dwell with them. They will be His people....He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, and mourning and crying and pain will be no more”’ (REV 21:1-4).
By His death and resurrection, Christ tramples the last enemy, Death, and thereby fulfills His Father's mandate to subject all things under His feet (1 COR 15:24-26). ‘Worthy is the Lamb, Who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ (REV 5:12).
The Christian faith is expressed and celebrated in the life and liturgy of the Church, and true celebration always involves lively participation; it is not our mere attendance at the services. It is communion in the power of the event being celebrated; it is God’s gift of joy given to spiritual humanity as a reward for our response to His love; it is the fulfillment of our spiritual and physical effort and preparation.
As the center of the Christian faith, the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of the Church’s liturgical life, and the true model for all our celebrations. ‘This is the chosen and holy day, first of sabbaths, royal and lordly, the feast of feasts, festival of festivals! On this day we bless Christ forevermore!’ (Heirmos 8, Kanon of Paskha).
Twelve weeks of preparation precede the ‘feast of feasts’. We observe five Sundays as we get ready to begin the fast, six weeks of the Great Fast, and - finally -- Passion Week. We journey from the Prodigal’s self-willed exile into the darkness to the grace-filled brilliance which heralds the dawn of the never-ending day of Christ’s reign.
There are many provisions needed for this journey, which must follow the prescribed route: there are no shortcuts. We must be amply supplied with repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and study, just to mention some of the more important things we need along the way.
Paskha is the inauguration of a new age; it reveals the mystery of the eighth day. It is our foretaste, in this age, of Christ's new and endless day. Something of that ‘light never overtaken by night’ is conveyed to us in the structure of the paschal services, in the repetition of the paschal order in all the services of Renewal Week, and in the special paschal features of all the services during the forty days until the Lord’s Assumption. Forty days are, as it were, treated as one day. Together they comprise the symbol of the new time in which the Church lives, and into which all the faithful are continually drawn, ‘reflecting the Lord's glory as we are transformed into that same image, from glory to glory' (2 COR 3:18).
‘Come! Let us drink a new drink! Not one which flows miraculously from the barren rock, but the very wellspring of freedom from decay flowing from the tomb of Christ, by which we are strengthened.
Christ is risen from the dead!
‘Now everything is filled with light, the sky and the earth and the deepest caverns below. Let all creation then celebrate the rising of Christ, by which it is strengthened.
Christ is risen from the dead!
‘Yesterday I was buried with You, O Christ; today I am being raised as You rise. I was crucified with You yesterday: Glorify me Yourself with You in Your royalty!' (Ode 3, Kanon of Paskha).
Christ is risen from the dead!’
‘O Christ, great and most sacred Passover Lamb! O Wisdom, Word, and Power of God! Grant that we may more perfectly partake of You in the never-ending day of Your reign!' (Ode 9, Kanon of Paskha; cf ROM 11:33; 1 COR 1:24).
Christ is risen from the dead,
by His death trampling Death,
and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.
And, since He bestows upon us everlasting life,
we adore His resurrection on the third day.
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY RISEN!
Monk James is an Eastern Orthodox Church Monk
from Patriarch HH Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
Meaning of Easter
Meaning of Easter
Holy Saturday Night
and Holy Saturday Evening
and Holy Saturday Morning
A Passion Week
Thought: People, attitudes, & action
are developed and maintained
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