Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ahh Pascha...My Love Hate Relationship

Well, it's that time of year again. The annual commemoration of Christ's death and resurrection. Personally, I find this the most joyous and upsetting time in my life.

Joy...
The reasons for joy should be apparent to my long time readers. It is the single event in history which reforms everything in the past, present, and future into a new understanding, a new life, a new creation. It is both God and man's victory over death and sin. It is the hope in which we place all our trust as Christians; the hope of resurrection...the hope of salvation. It is for this reason that Lent, Holy week, and the Resurrection are such pontent spiritual events in our lives. From the very devout to the most nominalist Christians, Pascha marks an important time. This is why Holy Saturday night is always marked with an overabundance of people in our churches. They are all drawn to the power of the resurrection, even though many do not quite understand it.

Upset...
It is these same masses of people that, while at the same time give me a great sense of family when assembled together, greatly upset me. I guess the number one reason for this frustration actually stems from this same overwhelming feeling of family that I feel only once a year. The fact that this is the only time when most of our baptized Christians actually show up to church is both hopeful and discouraging. I mean, I am glad to see them here at least once a year, and yet what a shame, what a discouragement, what a failure for the church, that these are not seen more often.

In this season, I find myself pondering the "what if's"of church life. "What if" these people could be reached on a more personal level? "What if" they could understand and truly live their faith? "What if" even half of them would contribute to the family of the church on a weekly basis. I guess Pascha always inevitably reminds me of the potential we have as Orthodox Christians and how far we have yet to go. The potential can be seen on Anastasi night; thousands lined up outside every church, waiting to the recieve the light of resurrection. However, the fact that 90% of leave before the actual Paschal Liturgy starts, thus missing the whole point of the resurrection, shows me how far we have yet to go.

Having said this, the subsequent question that most often follows such a statement is usually the one of blame. Who is to blame for this sad situation? Who can we turn to when searching for answers? Is it the priests, who sometimes have become accustomed to treating the divine services as a routine that they must simply get through in order to appease the expectations of the people? Is it the unruly youth, who simply do not care about church or God in this faithless generation? Or is it the parents who neglected to raise them properly? Is it the self-imposing bishops, or is it the fanatic extremists who seek to cleanse Orthodoxy from all the above mentioned types of people?

While asking all these questions, it has become abundantly clear that, just as the church is a living body (one that is affected by all its members), the problem of spiritual laxity rests with all its members. ALL are to blame and ALL are responsible for this situation. Pointing fingers at one or the other is simply a waste of time. The church will only grow and heal itself through a communal co-operation of all its members.

However, there is somewhat of a greater onus on the priest to set this co-operation in motion. The reality is that the body needs to have a brain from which it is to receive its direction. Now, it is true that many times, the hand or the foot do not want to listen to the brain, just as many groups of people do not want to listen to their priest. However, it is also imperative that the brain is functioning correctly, not sending the wrong signals to it members. In like manner, when the priests do not have a vision of where the church must go, and in addition, lack both the knowledge, wisdom, and personal spirituality to achieve such a vision, then how can we expect the members of the body to listen? The hard reality is that the Church is a communion, and as such, the actions of everyone affect everyone else. I repeat, the church cannot function without the co-operation of all its members.

This is the reality of our lives, the truth of our existence. However, it is this truth that most peopel do not want to accept. They simply can't be bothered with the problems of other people. And so, the ultimate enemy is us, ourselves. Our inability to think and act in a selfless manner is our greatest obstacle. In short, we lack the ability to Love. And it is this lack of Love, during the season of absolute Love, that makes me both joyful and sad at the same time.

May we all have a blessed and life-changing Pascha.

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