Resurrection Life: Stop and Delight
“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen” (Matthew 28:6).
Christ is Risen! This is the phrase on our lips. What does it mean in our heart? It is Pascha, the forty day Pascha. What does this mean for us today, and tomorrow, and for each day of the feast? What does it mean to feast? We endeavor so zealously during Lent. Do we drop the zeal in Pascha? For forty days we labored in our fast. Now the Church urges us to labor in our feast. Now is our season for cherishing God and creation. Now is our invitation to learn to see through different glasses — to open our eyes and discover life as God intends it: one, resurrection banquet of rest, delight, and joy.
“The heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested” (Genesis 2:1-2).
What was this rest on the seventh day? It was the eternal Pascha.
Consider for a moment the word Sabbath, in Hebrew. Shabbat has a double meaning. It means ‘to stop’ as well as ‘to delight.’ Remember to stop. Learn to be still. Practice the art of cherishing and delighting. The Law of Sabbath was a law to teach people to slow down and give thanks.
But why should God have to teach us this? Indeed, why make this a Law, and not just any law, but one of the most sacred laws of God’s people? Moses stepped down from Mt. Sinai with a list of To-do’s and Not-to-do’s. Most of these dealt with issues like idolatry, marriage, and employment. They gave the people a work ethic, a sense of human rights, and a foundation for civilization. As good, industrial Americans, we get all this. But why the Sabbath?
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
You see, the Jews had been slaves. For generations, they marched to the beat of the drums of Egyptian tyrants. They were tools for the world of business, productivity, and consumerism. Does this sound familiar? God called the Jews out from the world. He set them apart. God’s people must march to a different rhythm. What is it that makes His people different? They had the Sabbath. They were to live a life of stopping and delighting.
This is the Christian life, and it is embodied in this Holy Season of Pascha. The Law of Sabbath is no legalistic hangover from the Old Testament. God’s rest on the seventh day was the capstone of creation. It embedded a code into the DNA of the universe. Life is perfected in rest. The Law of the Sabbath in the Old Testament was merely a foreshadowing of the Law of Sabbath today. The Life of Sabbath belongs first and foremost to us Christians, and it is ours to seize now on Pascha.
“The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8).
Jesus Christ did not abolish the Sabbath. He fulfilled it. Indeed, Jesus is the Sabbath. On that first Easter day, when the morning sun shown on the empty tomb, Christ ushered in a new era of Sabbath. Every Sunday is a little glimpse into this Eternal Sabbath. Pascha, the forty days of Pascha, is an ocean of Sabbath.
How are we suppose to enjoy this Pascha season? When we wake up Monday morning, the world around will look about the same. We have to show up to work. We have to shop and buy. The chores do not stop. Modern life is so caught up in its fast-paced frenzy that it is hard to keep the spirit of Pascha alive. We cannot given into this. Pascha flies in the face of tyranny and oppression. Pascha means we must stop and delight.
This is strange for us Americans. In mainstream society here, Easter comes and goes with a single day. Bright Monday arrives, and the joy of Easter is forgotten. In traditional Christian churches, there is still some effort to honor Lent. Yet, even there, Holy Week is given all the focus. The point of Lent is forgotten. The meaning of Lent is lost, unless it is culminated in the joy and celebration of Pascha.
How do we keep the spirit of Pascha alive? Keep the greeting on your lips: “Christ is Risen!” Greet everyone you see each and every day: “Christ is Risen!” I will never forget what it was like in Greece, where men, women, and children greet each other enthusiastically: “Christ is Risen!” For forty days, on the buses, in the grocery markets, or at the breakfast table, Christians declare: “Christ is Risen!” This is Orthodoxy. Let the resurrection be in your heart and on your lips every day. Some will think we are crazy. Others will laugh. Others still will rejoice in their heart: the world, with all its noise and hate, cannot stamp out the joyful noise that Christ is risen.
Another way to keep Pascha alive is to get in the habit of delighting.
"Taste and see that the lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
Elder Zosima, in The Brothers Karamazov, taught the people: “Love all creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand within it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery.”
Fr. Grigori Petroff, shortly before his martyrdom in a Soviet Gulag, gave this praise to God: “O Lord, how good it is for us to be Thy guests! How fine it is for us in Thy world. The fields are fragrant, the mountains rise high up into the sky, and the golden rays of sun and the light clouds are reflected in the water. All nature mysteriously speaks about Thee, all is filled with Thy mercy and all carries the seal of Thy love. Blessed be the earth which, with her short-lasting beauty, awakens the yearning for the eternal homeland in Thy kingdom, where in everlasting beauty resounds the song: Alleluia!”
Keep a white candle lit all forty days of Pascha. Let the light remind you: Christ is Risen!
Fill your home with flowers and decorations which declare: Christ is Risen!
Make it a rule to sit on a bench each day and marvel at the banquet of creation which God has laid out for us. The sunrise and sunset all proclaim: Christ is Risen!
Embrace the forty days of Pascha and start delighting.
“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. [But] the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen” (Matthew 28:2-6).
The Christian harbors in his heart something the world will never understand: rest and joy. The world will go on with its bustle. The politicians will keep making noise. The industries will consume and manipulate. The world will continue to be a tomb. But we know the tomb to be empty. The Pascha light shines everywhere. The Pascha light radiates in our hearts. The Pascha light is the light given us to walk in, the light of the Resurrection, the Eternal Sabbath and the promise of life to come. Stop and delight.
“Shine! Shine! O New Jerusalem! The glory of the Lord has shown upon you! Exult and be glad! It is the day of resurrection! Let us be illumined for the feast! Pascha! The Pascha of the Lord!”
Christ is Risen!