The Journey to Pascha
As we approach and enter into the yearly recurrence of Christ’s suffering and resurrection, the Lenten season, which culminates with Pascha, what comes to mind is our midnight service with the candles and the triumphant chanting. What may fail to come to mind is the journey itself, and the opportunity offered to us once again to transform ourselves, or more accurately, to be transfigured.
This long Journey whose planning stages began on February 9th with the start of the Triodion period, and that comes to a complete conclusion on June 7th with the Feast of Pentecost, peaks on the 19th of April when we Orthodox celebrate Pascha. Imagine this journey to be a lot like climbing up a mountain with the mid- night Paschal service being the peak of the mountain, the climax for us as individuals as well as communally. In order to get there focus, struggle and perseverance are required.
Triodion prepares us with particular Gospel accounts, properly reorienting our focus. The Gospel ac- count of the Publican and the Pharisee where we come to understand that without humility our efforts during our journey to Pascha will be fruitless, and that practice of humility itself is the key to opening up the Christian life to us. The parable of the Prodigal Son allows us to realize that we (humanity) is lost and not living in our true home, that we have walked away from God or turned away from His loving embrace (for various reasons of our own) and that we must return to Him because His love for us is greater than any sin or deed we may have committed. In the Parable of the Last Judgment we are reminded that each of us will come before Christ and be judged, the criteria for judgment being based on our acts of love done for our neighbors and the needy. The next step in the Triodion is Forgiveness Sunday, where the message is clear, “if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
Through our journey towards Pascha, our focus on a daily basis from when we wake up to when we go to bed should be on prayer, fasting, almsgiving and scripture. With prayer we take a trip inside ourselves and we spend time with God, quietly forming and deepening a relationship with God, our neighbor, and our world. With Fasting, we fast from foods as well as activities, behaviors, thoughts and actions that are not good for our souls, and make room within ourselves for mercy, kindness and love. In Almsgiving we practice loving our neighbors and giving them what we now have excess of as a result of fasting. Spending time in scripture allows us to better know about God, and become more familiar with Him and how we are meant to live in His likeness.
The Lenten Journey is where we strive to hone in on self- improvement, helping, and healing motivated in and by and through Christ. Where we take the opportunity to go to confession or talk to a priest in order to receive a spiritual check-up and talk about ourselves in relation to God and His forgiveness. It is a time to increase our prayerfulness in moments of retreat and reflecting on God so that when He appears to us we may know and recognize Him and invite Him into our very being. The Journey to Pascha is our journey back to God’s kingdom, and accepting Christ as our Most High God and Savior. It’s where we sing Christ is Risen, the end of the journey finds completion in the trampling of Death by Death, and where we receive God’s most Holy Sprit.
+ Rev Ioannis (Yanni) Michaelidis, Assistant Pastor
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