Joy Kills Darkness.
“My joy.... Christ is Risen” - St Seraphim
Nobody who has found themselves in attendance at a Midnight Orthodox Paschal matins service can be indifferent to the joy that permeates in the Church as we greet the Risen Christ.
For those who take the journey to Pascha and travel the wave of repentance that is Great Lent, we are confronted with the entirety of the human experience. Passion week alone, sees us confront; Betrayal , envy, loyalty and true love, all of this in the final days of Our Lords earthly life.
The services of Passion week frame this like no other; The Passion gospels which we read on Thursday evening, The bringing out of the Epitaphios (плащаниця) during vespers on Friday or the most harrowing, on Holy Saturday ; The Descent of the Lord into Hades, The day which connects the Cross to the empty tomb for many Orthodox Christians remains a mystery, but it is integral for us to understand this day, how sorrow is replaced and crowned by joy, the Joy of Christ having trampled down death by death.
And then we experience the joy of the empty tomb, anticipation is replaced with joy, a joy that is played out in parish churches all over the world, our somber preparations in a spirit of prayer and fasting is replaced with the life affirming greeting of CHRIST IS RISEN, to which the gathered faithful answers in one voice with, TRULY HE HAS RISEN!
The spirit of joy continues during the bright period as we visit the graves of our loved ones with the Risen Christ as the governing spirit.. eternal memory is replaced with us singing the joyful troparion of Pascha : Christ is Risen from the dead/Trampling down death by death/ and those in the tombs bestowing life.
Can we experience the entirety of this human experience by merely attending the blessing of Paschal baskets? Short answer no....Without walking with our Lord through His voluntary passion we cannot experience the Grace of His Resurrection.
St Gregory the Theologian +390 says it best in his Easter Oration
- Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him. Yesterday I died with Him; today I am made alive with Him. Yesterday I was buried with Him; today I am raised up with Him. Let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us … ourselves, the possession most precious to God and most proper. Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us give all, offer all, to Him who gave Himself a Ransom and Reconciliation for us.
Do we want joy? Joy comes from struggle from toil, from working on something that ultimately bears fruit. Our life in Christ demands work , input and our own participation in the process of our salvation. We Orthodox are often asked , ‘Are we saved? ‘To which our answer based on the teachings of the Church is ‘I am being saved! ‘ This process is not the same as us waiting for a takeaway pizza.. It requires our work, our time, our focus . The liturgy itself and our participation in it is integral to this process as the word λειτουργία literally means the “work for the people”
Fr Michael Smolynec - Sydney.