Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ten Years

I was chrismated into the Orthodox Church ten years ago today (liturgically speaking; as Pascha is a moveable feast, the actual calendar date doesn't matter so much). My family came up to Tulsa from West Texas, and a cute, petite blonde sat in a pew a little ways back (holding my then-baby cousin through the whole liturgy--one of the longest of the year!). She would be chrismated that December, and we would be married the following June.

It was the second Pascha I had witnessed--the first being a dark whirlwind that ended in blinding light and Al Masih Qam stuck in my head for weeks. Since then, it's been everything from Bay Leaves to Kulich to newborns to little white dresses to taking off a couple of teaching days (to "cushion the blow" of Holy Friday through Pascha) to staying up to get candle wax out of a cassock (a never ending job) to Pysanky to Shiner Bock beer in a pascha basket. Last year and this year--and, God willing, next year--are, of course, distinct for their being spent in the Northeast US at SVS. There are differences, of course--I miss the Pascha night multilingual gospel reading that we so enjoyed in parish life--but the joy of Pascha has been identical in all eleven times I've seen it...there is nothing in this world like it. This is both purposeful, and yet sad. There can be nothing like it in this world, and yet, paradoxically, all in this world is called to share in its light. Or, to hijack a phrase someone wrote about Flannery O'Conner's Catholic faith, Pascha is not "the only thing that one must see in this world, but it is the light by which all else must be seen."

One of the things that no doubt gave me pause and activated the famous "raised eyebrow" I have bequeathed to my third daughter was the changing of the liturgical colors to white and the placing of the Harrowing of Hell icon (see the sidebar) in the center icon podium. Why do that, I would ask, if it is not Pascha yet?

Answer? We just can't help ourselves.

Our change to these colors almost seems a slip, a liturgical wink and nod, if you will. We have just walked with our Lord through the Passion by way of hearing the Gospel accounts; that sacrament of hearing leads to lamentation, where we hear the Mother of God weep tragically:
"Where dost Thou go, my Child? Why dost Thou run so swiftly? Is there another wedding in Cana, and art Thou hastening there, to turn the water into wine? Shall I go with Thee, my Child, or shall I wait for Thee? Speak some word to me, O Word; do not pass me by in silence. Thou hast preserved my virginity, and Thou art my Son and God." (Ikos of Small Compline for Holy Friday)
Yet the Old Testament readings read over the tomb and the accompanying hymns make clear already what those first Christians read in the Hebrew Scriptures after having witnessed the death of Christ: "Arise...arise...arise."

I've often wondered why some folks in the Church tend to fixate on the penitential aspects of the faith--whether as a good thing (the wide-eyed, hand-on-heart, "ah, yes, I am--[faux pained sigh]--the chief of sinners") or a bad thing (i.e., the folks with almost an allergy to anything ascetic or demanding in the faith: "Oh, great, three more hours of 'I hate myself' hymnography")--when, as my middle girl has told me all week in dark-hued Holy Week services, "Yeah, but, Jesus isn't really dead!" The secret that's behind "abstain[ing] from passions as we abstain from food," as we sang at Lent's outset is leaked gloriously on this day and declared joyously tonight through the words of our father among the saints, John Chrysostom: "Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast." The ascetical practice we have here of praying the psalms in shifts during the night following Holy Friday is similarly glorious; we are asking this One who lies dead to arise and overthrow the adversaries of our souls, for the dead do not rise up to praise Him. Our darkened solemnity is always backlit by the reality of an empty tomb. A tortured God who lies dead accomplishes more than all the machinations of men as He rests in this New Sabbath of Sabbaths from His recreation of the whole cosmos.

"All lights are now extinguished, except one lamp in the sanctuary. So the period of the Lenten Triodion comes to a close, and at once there begin Mattins of the Resurrection." ~ Closing words of Metr. KALLISTOS' edition of the Triodion

I ask your prayers for more years in our Lord's blessed community of faith. Joyous Feast to all. In anticipation: Christ is risen! Cristo ha resucitado! Христос воскрес! Χριστός ἀνέστη!


Anonymous said...

Αληθώς ο Κύριος
Indeed He is Risen
(I do not know the Spanish reply :) )
Greetings from Greece (I've been following your blog for a couple of years). May the bright light of the empty tomb guide you and your family.

Mimi said...

Congratulations on your Chrismation Anniversary! Many Years!

Janelle thegeekywife said...

Truly He is Risen!

Many years!

SabrinaTheArizonaDesertRose said...

Many years on the anniversary of your Chrismation. I was just Chrismated this past Holy Saturday 4/23/11. It truly is a life-changing experience. I can't wait till 10 years from now since reading this excellent entry of yours!

Anonymous said...

Many Years, David! :) Amy B.

biss said...

Le Christ est ressuscite!
En verite, Il est ressuscité!

James the Thickheaded said...

Many years! and many blessings to you in your decade in the faith! May your faith be a blessing to all those whom God sends your way. All.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts here and your walk through the years through this blog. My prayers for you and your family in the years ahead that you may find joy in walking with the Lord and help lead others to the same.

James the Thickheaded said...

And of course, Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!