Lent was in many ways an image, or icon, of the present life; Holy Pascha, however, is an icon of the Age to Come. During the forty days of the Great Fast, we engaged in fierce spiritual warfare. The long weekday services, the somber Liturgy of Pre-sanctified Gifts, and the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete took us into the place of holy mourning. We stirred ourselves from the sleep and laziness in which we were spending our life. Our eyes were then raised to the Bridal Chamber open before us. In tears—perhaps only half a teardrop!—we entered the narrow way of repentance, breaking our compromises with sin. In our fasting we changed our life, clearing aside, as far as we could, not merely our normal foods but even more whatever was holding us back from Christ.
And now we have Paschal Time. Do we not somehow miss the zeal of Great Lent, its clarity, its companionship in which we served and struggled together? What does this feeling mean? It was clear, although not easy, how we were to observe the Forty Day Fast. But how are we meant to pass these precious and bright Fifty Days of Pascha, when our fasts are easier and the sorrowful prostrations of Lent are out of place?
In the first place we must take care not to leave off our zeal. Lent was a time of preparation for Pascha, so that we could pass with our Savior through His life-giving death to His glorious resurrection, to a whole new life, that is, entering into the uncreated life and energies of the Kingdom of God. Having been purified with much effort and difficulty, we can now go forward unimpeded into this new life. We have put off the old man and put on Christ. It would be crazy if, with the arrival of Pascha, we slipped backward into our old ways—whether to past sins, or simply into a worldly life and the oblivion which goes with it. Remember that our Lenten warfare was against the demons, the influence of the world and our own selfish passions, not against foods and other good things of creation that God has given us.
Our spiritual warfare continues during these weeks of Pascha, but it takes on a triumphant tone. Having been purified, we are able to partake of the good things of creation with thanksgiving. We are to use this world innocently, like Adam and Eve in Paradise. Thus we are to experience things, foods, our family, friends and all mankind in their true beauty—rather than as means to getting our own needs met. This means we are to have a profound reverence for all, treating everything and everyone as holy icons of Christ, perceiving Christ and encountering Him in them. This is the challenge of Holy Pascha, that having been purified we treat this world as already transformed, already in the future Resurrection. Do we not have a taste of this reality in the Orthodox services? When we stand in prayer in the holy temple, do we not experience people and material things differently, as they truly are, in their sacredness, so that we feel awe and reverence before them?
On the day of Pascha we experience the Resurrection as far as we are able. Our present task during these Fifty Days is to abide in this joy, to hold on to this beauty, in spite of whatever would snatch it from us. Only then can we embrace each other joyfully, calling brothers even those who hate us and forgiving all in the Resurrection.
-Father Paul Burholt
Copyright © 2014 Fr. Paul Burholt