Perhaps I'm just easily enthused (some would say that's bad; I don't know what I think about it), but Pascha always excites me. There was an air this year of finality to the Great Fast, a knowledge that one period was rapidly coming to a close, and another, very different period was fast approaching...we mourned over the Lord's Passion and Burial but, like those who've seen this movie before, did not mourn as our Lady must have. We had in mind the coming Resurrection...indeed, when the lights all went out in our church on Saturday night and the familiar strains of "Thy Resurrection, O Christ our Savior"--sung by our priest and his two sons--began to float back through the nave, when the light wandered back from candle to candle, when we slowly plodded around our building, icons and cross before us, when we sang and listened to the Gospel on our "front porch"--there was an anticipation for the coming release, a release one couldn't help but hear afterwards in every booming reply of "Indeed, He is risen!" shouted by the faithful.
Release from what? From fasting? Well, I was on a "protein high" for most of Sunday afternoon, happy to say yes to the free samples in the Wal-Mart Supercenter without having to stop and think, but there's obviously more to it (or, at least, there should be) than that...I always like to refer to the Resurrection as the "Great Remembering," or the idea that we will not be forgotten (This speaks to me, mostly because I can be quite the attention junkie). If Orthodox services, as I have just recently said, mystically take us to the "eternal nowness" of an event that happened in the past, then the passage from Great Lent to Great and Holy Pascha is especially significant. Great Lent has been called "the Church on the way," or the Church as journey. While the very purpose of the Church is to proclaim the Kingdom of God which is here and now, within Her sacramental life, there's also an awareness that we're not "there" yet, that we're still moving towards the ultimate dénouement of His glory...Great Lent, with all of its Old Testament readings and penitential prayers, reminds us that something is still horribly wrong, and that we are still lost in our own fog of self-importance, and that, in our desire to preserve ourselves we only see that fog lifted, if only partially, when we allow ourselves to beg of Christ that He remember us when He comes in His Kingdom.
Pascha is, and always has been, His answer. The Doors to Heaven are flung unmistakeably open and we are reminded that Death, the ultimate swallower of Man, the ultimate oblivion which threatens to erase us completely from Creation, is overcome by Someone Who--let it never be doubted--is trustworthy and Who is able to, has and will again overcome every hospital flatline, every shovelful of dirt, every moment of decay. He overcame it in His own case, and tells us that He means to overcome it in all of ours, as well.
"If we endure with Him, we shall reign with Him." Many times the thought has crossed my mind, "Yes, but...what good will the Resurrection be if I am only to experience it through an unpurified heart?" My thoughts, though, inevitably turn back to the fact that, if I do indeed meet my Savior at the Resurrection with an unclean heart, it will be because such a heart does not truly wish to be remembered, that it actually prefers the oblivion of forgetfulness. It most certainly will not be because my Lord, God and Savior, Who took flesh, suffered, died and rose for me does not desire me (in all my unavoidable unworthiness). And who can look at the icon of the descent into Hades and see a God who would have nothing to do with fallen Man? Who can see the sure grip of a Maker on the hands of His first creatures and doubt for one second that, though He will not take the steps for us, will always uphold us on the waters of our lives' oceans as we step out to Him?
We are not now, nor shall we ever be forgotten, and our Home--as well as our Hope Who lives and waits there now--proclaims His love from the maw of an empty tomb, declares His unchanging determination to welcome home any and all prodigals who "will arise and go" home to the Father.
Christ IS Risen!