Cherish the Joy of Pscha
Cherish the joy of Pascha. The Pascha joy fills everything, transcends everything, changes everything. It is the foundation of our Christian life. The empty tomb tore a chasm into humanity. It separated those on one side from those on the other. The first still live in the tomb, with death and sadness. The second has resurrected with Christ, into a new world, a world vibrant and sublime, where every bird and every blade of grass sings: “Christ is Risen!” Yesterday, we ended our 40 days fast. Today, we begin our forty days feast. Pascha means Passover. We pass over into a new life. Do not let the world behind extinguish the Pascha joy. Cultivate it, kindle it, feed it, from the moment you wake till the moment you sleep.
“Peter went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in” (John 20:3-5).
This passage teems with energy. Mary Magdalene runs to the disciples. The disciples run to the tomb. Peter is usually the first to show up, but this time John outruns him. They arrive and the tomb is empty. What is it about this empty tomb? Take a moment and put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel? Shocked, exuberant, confused, doubting, celebrating, wondering…What has happened?
“Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself (John 20:6-7).
What is it about this empty tomb? Christ is not there. Something in my heart always aches a little at this passage. Where is Christ? Could he not have waited to meet the disciples? Instead, he is gone. It is quiet. You cannot help but yearn for more. The empty tomb is the essence of hope. You are almost there, but not quite yet. The first rays of the sun start to shine, everything is touched by its soft light, but the sun has not fully risen. There is more to come.
Why was the tomb empty? The disciples were not ready to meet Christ himself, not yet. They needed time to contemplate everything happening. They were left in an existential state, a state of being that characterizes our whole Christian life, right here, at this empty tomb. It is called wonder and hope.
This wonder and hope is the essence of our Paschal Joy. Yesterday, the tomb represented everything cruel. Today, it represents everything good and beautiful. Yesterday, the smell of death clung to the tomb. Today, the smell of sweetness pours out from it. Yesterday, the politics, the viruses, the wars, and all the noise on the news reports were deafening. Today, none of it matters. It is all part of the world of yesterday. All the noise, all the loss in life, belongs to another time, a memory of a kind, of the day when the tomb was shut. Today, a totally new world looms over us. It is the Life of the Resurrection. It is the Pascha Joy.
“It is the day of resurrection! Let us be illumined for the feast! Pascha! The Pascha of the Lord! From death unto life, and from earth unto heaven has Christ our God led us! Singing the song of victory: Christ is risen from the dead!” (Orthodox hymn).
The Church tells us to feast now for these forty days ahead. This is not an option. This is the foundation. The Pascha feast is the essence of being Christian. Pascha comes to plant in our hearts a joy, the joy of the resurrection.
Can we understand this? Can we accept it?
The Pascha joy cannot take root in one short day. The Saturday vigil is not enough. Pascha Sunday is not enough. We must not go back to our normal lives. We needed forty days to really soak in Lent. We need forty days to soak in the resurrection. We need this season to sing in the shower, “Christ is Risen”, to greet everyone at work and the supermarket, “Christ is Risen,” to look at the sky and flowers and wonder, “Christ is Risen”, and to anticipate the eternal banquet in all our food, drink, family, and life.
Pascha comes to plant the seeds of the resurrection in our hearts. Now we have work to do, to water the seeds, to cherish the good news of Pascha.
“Then the disciples went away again unto their own home” (John 20:6,7,10).
What were the disciples feeling on their walk home? Everything must have looked different. The trees, the stones, even the dust on the path, it was all changed. The world is charged with wonder. So must it be in our lives moving forward, because Christ is Risen!
Have a blessed Pascha and a Beautiful Resurrection!
Christ is Risen!