The glow of Bright Week--the week following Pascha--has receded; the regular cycles of the Church have resumed (though, mercifully and gloriously, the refrains of "Christ is risen!" still punctuate our liturgical conversations)...'twas strange indeed, after so seemingly long a time, to actually fast on a Wednesday...and not even a total fast, which would hearken even further back to the weeks in which we did so in preparation for reception of the Presanctified Gifts, but rather the "plain," three-squares-of-grains-fruits-and-veggies that mark our weeks during the rest of the year.
And then Vespers tonight...(on a random note, met John's son, which was an unexpected treat)...All of it seems to be settling in to the part of the year that is, ironically enough, actually referred to often as "Ordinary," while still retaining the echoes gleaned from the walls of an empty Tomb. Last week I was wanting to blog about the subject in the title--Bright Week functioning as Clean Week--but was detained...end of grading period, business at home, general feeling of "not now; not yet"...I always tend to think of that "forced silence" as a mercy. Perhaps I should dread the fact that I'm up typing now, but things seem more "open" I suppose...Lord, have mercy...
Clean Week is interesting, because it offers us a chance to engage, wholeheartedly (wholebodily?) in the sweeping clean of the body of the rule of the passions. It's often marked by the total absence of food in monasteries (Monday-Wed. night, at least ime), a bodily discipline which takes away the compliance with the demand of the belly for food, and thus makes us aware of the food the world knows not of: doing the will of our Father in Heaven. Yet, as one is sanctified, so one must be glorified, else a vacuum of sorts is left in place; the cleansing or purging of Clean Week would not only be useless, but even dangerous (I would even go so far as to say demonic) were it not filled and fulfilled with the glory found in the Resurrection of Christ, wherein we wait for our (final) adoption as sons, the redemption of OUR bodies. Fasting without this hope, without this contact with the risen, immortal, God-man, still-circumscribed yet seated at the Father's right hand--such a "fasting" is little more than starvation, and in its weakening of the flesh nothing more than a door for the enemy.
Indeed, they come out not only by fasting, but by prayer and fasting--the former being communion with the One who is risen. Our cries of "Let begin the fast with joy; let us prepare ourselves for spiritual effort. Let us purify our soul and cleanse our flesh; let us abstain from passion as we abstain from food" are effectual because they are done in relation to our desire and need "to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness to behold His holy Pascha.”
And so comes Bright Week--the Bridegroom is still with us in these 40 Days!--and the grasping at the mere hem of His garment yields nonetheless the Power that is within Him; our feeble obedience ("When you fast...") meets the harbinger of what will fill the space we clear for Him, and a joy that truly is inexpressible and full of glory (yet not what I'd call emotional) truly is there, a taste of love that makes the darkness of this deathly world the foil it must be seen as, rather than the foreground it's often made out to be. St. Maximos the Confessor said once that this life is a clash of loves; how wonderful that, here in Bright Week we have a divine eros in our incorruptible Bridegroom that is sufficient to clash (and prevail) against the eros of this world.
One last anecdote that will bring this rambling and most likely hopelessly naïve and triumphalistic post to a close: Fr. Tom Hopko once mentioned a young lady who was a member of his parish and confided in him that, at one point while she was away (I think at college?), she was on the verge of engaging in some form of immorality. She refrained from doing so, yet (so she told Father Tom), the reason she refrained was not because she remembered that "The Church said 'no'," or that "The Seventh Commandment said, 'no'," or whatever else...the image that stopped her--and I love the fact that it was a mental icon that did it--was her remembrance of Fr. Tom on Pascha night crying out, "Christ is risen!" At that moment, the pull of what she knew to be darkness and death was too weak to topple the purity, the piercing reality of the blessed cleansing that is the risen Christ.
Prayers for me during this Paschal season are appreciated.
Christ is risen!