Archive for September 26th, 2008

Pascha And Creation

September 26, 2008

There are several religious or theological mistakes to make about Christ’s resurrection. They are generally innocent, and refelct the faith as a number of people have been taught it. The problem lies in the fact that many do not rightly understand the resurrection nor the true scope of its significance. I am just a sinner and not worthy to offer corrections to others – but I will offer what I know.

1. The resurrection surely occurs in history. Christ was crucifed, dead and buried. On Sunday following, His followers found the tomb empty and encountered the Risen Lord for the first time. However, the event of Christ’s resurrection, though occurring in time, was also more than that. The resurrection is of such a character that it cannot be measured by space and time. Whatever occurred, happened as well on a level beyond our comprehension. The mistake comes in reducing the resurrection to a mere space-time event, whose primary task was to certify that Christ was Who he said He was, and to give us assurance of eternal life. Such a description is too small and fails to comprehend, the heighth, depth, and breadth of the resurrection.

2. Secondly, it is a mistake to view our lives or the debts and debtors of our lives in purely legal terms. We live in the midst of an existenial crisis, one that goes to the very character and nature of our being, and not a legal crisis. What we need from God is not legal relief, but relief from suffering and death – the burden of corruption which afflicts us all. Thus the resurection must be understood in ontological or existential terms and not in merely legal terms. To forgive by the resurrection is an existential statement and not merely a legal statement.

3. Though Pascha occurs at a specific moment in history – it is more than that moment in history – for the one who is crucified is also “one of the Holy Trinity.” He is the “Alpha and the Omega.” We crucified the One Whom Himself is both beginning and end. Thus the event that occurs cannot be limited to a day in Jerusalem but stand both in and out of time, even as Christ was both in and out of time. “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth” (Rev. 13:8) is an eternal offering of God on behalf of His creation and not simply an offering in space and time.

4. The universe itself – all that exists – exists for Pascha. We were created for this.

He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Everything which exists, exists for Christ, was made by Him and for Him. According to St. Maximus Christ’s Pascha is the cause of all things. God’s statement, “Let there be light,” was a Paschal moment in which the world came into existence through His infinite goodness. Thus, all that we see, every speck of dust is itself the result of Pascha.

By the same token, Pascha is also our recreation: “If anyone is in Christ, behold, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). Further, we can also say that the whole of our Baptized life is the creation of Pascha:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:1-4).

These things being the case, how should we then live? As one reader asked, “How do we live Pascha?” In a sense the answer is too large for it is the whole of the Christian life. As such the fullness of the answer can only be found in living the fullness of the life we have in Christ. But I will offer one small suggestion. It is found in the words of the Morning Prayer of the Elders of Optina, found in many Orthodox prayer books. To pray it and mean it, is to walk in the resurrection. It is, at least, a place to start. Particular attention should be paid to the petition that all things come from God – without this understanding, we cannot give thanks – and unless we give thanks to God for all things, we will never truly know Pascha, much less love our enemies. If we truly know God and see Him in the fullness of His Pascha, we will be able to forgive even our enemies, even those who have not asked forgiveness and intend to hurt us again. Because I am dead, I cannot be hurt. Because I live I cannot die. Great is the Mystery of God in Christ Jesus!

O Lord, grant that I may meet all that this coming day brings to me with spiritual tranquility. Grant that I may fully surrender myself to Thy holy Will.

At every hour of this day, direct and support me in all things. Whatsoever news may reach me in the course of the day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul and the firm conviction that all is subject to Thy holy Will.

Direct my thoughts and feelings in all my words and actions. In all unexpected occurrences, do not let me forget that all is sent down from Thee.

Grant that I may deal straightforwardly and wisely with every member of my family, neither embarrassing nor saddening anyone.

O Lord, grant me the strength to endure the fatigue of the coming day and all the events that take place during it. Direct my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to be patient, to forgive, and to love. Amen.