Holy Week and Pascha (Easter): The Pull of Ineffable Glory
Pascha and Holy Week: It is called the marathon. With about a dozen services, depending on who you ask, the week leading up to Pascha (Easter) can be both tiring and rewarding: tiring, because most of us are working during the day and worshiping at night, and rewarding because we are moving closer to God in an unexplainable journey that results in a glorious feast day.
But the feelings we [Orthodox] Christians experience can also be derisive, and this could be particularly shocking for those who are new to the experience. The pull between the visible and the invisible forces can be largely powerful and challenging and, without having used the tools He gave to us, nerves can overcome one’s sense of stability. This doesn’t sound much like Pascha at all.
As I chant and sing, even during the first matins and vespers leading into Holy Monday, I can feel a slight indifference and uneasiness about giving my heart completely to God. I have fasted, and attended services as much as possible, but it isn’t enough to instill unconditional love into my heart that allows the moments in an hour to pass by as a breeze. I’m a sinner, and I’m attached to the world – attached to things that could never quench a thirst for more power, fame and passion. But the power of the Lord is even greater and, especially, the time before his Resurrection is like a magnet into the unknown.
Now I am getting over the hump. Pascha is within my reach.
It feels like I am moving toward something bad – something uncomfortable. Like a possessed soul I’m driven by the world and repulsed by what is actually holy. But, by the time it is done, I am rather repulsed by what is truly vile. Like a drug addict I had been quivering from a lack of material satisfaction but the darkness, if holding on, turns into light. This, my friends, is a reason to keep going through the year and not lose focus. A reminder of how only through Him can our hunger be filled. Through the Church and her liturgical calendar only can we find the richness of Pascha year after year, as it is eternally with us.
It is frustrating to want to focus but always feeling distracted; it is discouraging when you are unable to give your heart to the Holy Spirit. This is actually what feels repulsive – not the Lord Himself – and so this is why you must keep fasting, worshiping and praying, using the tools He gives to us to use on a daily basis. No, it is not the Lord Himself – many blame the Church or God for their misfortune and distance themselves – but it is actually the fault of the world and sin. It is us. And if not because of this, then perhaps it is this instead: “I don’t have time for it,” one may say. I know I have said this. But I knew this was the real “bad,” and recognized the spiritual warfare, forcing myself to a second Sunday service for the Matins of Holy Monday. And here I am on Holy Saturday, feeling better after hearing beautiful music, chanting and almost to the point of realizing once again His Glorious Resurrection. Oh, beautiful Pascha.
This is the pull of the ineffable glory on Pascha (Easter). Let the marathon consume you and, once it is over, keep going throughout the year lest you experience withdrawal all over again during Pascha next year… lest you be consumed instead from earthly satisfaction.
Christ is Risen!