April Pascal Message
By: Rev. Dr. Nicholas V. Gamvas
CHRIST IS RISEN! CRISTOS ANESTH!
My belief in Christ does not come from the opportunity given to me to participate since earliest childhood in the paschal celebration. Rather, Pascha is made possible, that unique night fills with light and joy and such victorious power in the greeting “Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!” because my faith itself was born from experience of the living Christ. How and when was it born? I don’t know, I don’t remember. I only know that every time I open the gospel and read about Christ, read H is words, read H is teaching, I consciously repeat, with all my heart and being, what was said by those who were sent to arrest Christ but who returned to the Pharisees without him: “No man ever spoke like this man” (Jn. 7:46). Therefore what I know first of all is that Christ’s teaching is alive, and that nothing on earth can be compared with it. And this teaching is about H im, about eternal life, about victory over death, about a love that conquers and overcomes death. I know as well that in a life where everything seems so difficult and tiresome, the one constant that never changes and never leaves is this inner awareness that Christ is with me. “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you” (Jn. 14:18). And H e does come and give the feeling of His presence through prayer, through a thrill of soul, through a joy so incomprehensible, yet so very alive, through His mysterious, but again so certain, presence in church during services and in sacraments. This living experience is always growing, this knowledge, this awareness which becomes so obvious that Christ is here and that His word has been fulfilled: whoever loves Me, “I will love him and manifest Myself to him Jn. 14:21). And whether I am in a crowd or alone, this certitude of H is presence, this power of H is word, this joy of faith in H im remains with me. This is the only answer and the only proof.
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? Why do you mourn the incorrupt amid corruption?” All Christianity, therefore, is the experience of faith repeated again and again as if for the first time, through its incarnation in rites, words, music, and colors. To the unbeliever, it may indeed seem like a mirage; H e hears only words, H e sees only incomprehensible ceremonies, and H e understands them only outwardly. But for believers, all of this radiates from within, and not as proof of his faith, but as its result, as its life in the world, in the soul, in history. Therefore the darkness and sadness of Holy Friday is for us something real, alive, contemporary; we can cry at the cross and experience everything that took place in that triumph of evil, treachery, cowardice, and betrayal; we can contemplate the life-bearing tomb on Holy Saturday with excitement and hope. And therefore, every year we can celebrate Easter, Pascha, the Resurrection. For Easter is not the remembrance of an event in the past. It is the real encounter in happiness and joy, with H im whom our hearts long ago knew and encountered as the life and light of all light. Easter- Pascha night testifies that Christ is alive and with us, and that we are alive with H im. The entire celebration is an invitation to look at the world and life, and to behold the dawning of the mystical day of the Kingdom of light. “Today the scent of Spring begins,” sings the church, “and the new creation exults…” It exults in faith, in love and in hope. As so beautifully the hymn states:
This is the day of resurrection,
Let us be illumined by the feast,
Let us embrace each other,
Let its call “brothers” even those that hate us,
And forgive all by the resurrection,
And so let us cry: Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life.