Christ Is Risen!

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

During this Paschal season, this is our continual greeting to one another, as common and as familiar to us as, “Hello! How are you?” And indeed, it should be both common and familiar – a part of our everyday life – but with the common and familiar there is always the danger of lack of thought. We will often say, “Hello! How are you?” to one another without the slightest vestige of real concern about how the other person is. We cannot let this happen to something as central to our faith as our Paschal greeting.

What then, are we saying when we greet one another with these words?

We start with Christ, who is the starting point of all things, the object and the wellspring of our faith, the source and the fulfillment of all Creation. What starting point could be more appropriate? And the word “Christ”, of course, is the Greek for “Messiah”, God’s promised Saviour. We start, then, with the fulfillment of God’s promised salvation.

Our greeting ends with “is risen” – in fact, both the greeting and the response to the greeting ends with these words. This is the ultimate end and purpose of our faith, Christ, the Risen One, in whom we are also risen. Contained within these words is also the understanding that Christ is risen from the dead, as we also sing repeatedly this Paschal season. Death rules over all this present world, but in going through death like Christ, with Christ, death, the ultimate end, ceases to be an end at all, but rather a new beginning. The resurrection from the dead is the heartbeat of our faith, the understanding that all the pain and sorrow and suffering that we endure in this life is merely temporary – and not only so, but, in the words of the Holy Apostle Paul, “is not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed in us.” As the sun rises in the east and disperses the darkness, so all our light and momentary afflictions will vanish in the dazzling daylight of Christ’s glorious resurrection as it is revealed in us!

The last portion of our Paschal greeting we need to keep in mind is the word “indeed” in the response. This is our response to the news of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, that it is the ultimate truth. There are many truths in this world, some good and some quite hideous, but for us, as Christians, as those in Christ and in the process of being raised with Him, the resurrection is the truth above all other truth. Nothing compares to it, everything is seen in an new light because of it, because for us as Christians in Christ, everything takes place in this ultimate deed.

How are we, then? How can we be anything but overflowing with joy, as Christ is risen indeed!

The Calendars Are Here!

calendarThe 2014 church year calendars have finally arrived! My apologies for the delay… What with the busy-ness of the Christmas season and with moving (and moving further away from the US border) and with getting back into the swing of things when we returned to work, it was harder than usual to slip across the border and pick them up. Next time I think we’ll just pay the extra shipping and get them sent straight to St. John’s. 🙂

The church calendars will be freely available (one per family, please!) at St. John’s starting Wednesday. The copies of The Daily Lives, Miracles and Wisdom of the Saints & Fasting Calendar that Tim ordered have also arrived – speak to Tim if you want or have ordered a copy.

Christ is in our midst!

I loved this New York Times article that was recently shared with me by a fellow-priest – its deconstruction of the standard English greeting and reflection on how Russians respond to it not only gives insight into Russian culture (and our own), but also highlights how much more universal the ancient Christian greeting and response is, at least between those who share the same theology.

Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be.

A Little More on Sloth

As you know, we refer to the sin of sloth (acedia) quite often during Great Lent, as it is one of the major sins we are wrestling with through all of the Lenten labours we are undertaking. It is most frequently referred to, of course, in the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian:

O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of laziness (sloth), despair, lust of power, and idle thoughts,
but give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to your servant.
Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother,
for You are holy now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

A great description of sloth by Dorothy Sayers was just shared with me today, so I thought I would pass it on and share it with you:

Dorothy Sayers writes: Sloth is the sin that believes nothing, cares to know nothing, seeks to know nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing… and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die (The Other Six Deadly Sins)

Lent, the Great Canon, and the Race of Repentance

Anyone who has been around St. John’s for any length of time will have heard me quote my favourite Desert Father’s story – the one about the old, holy monk whose disciples were gathered around him eagerly awaiting his last words before he departs to go to be with his Lord. His last words, after a lifetime spent in repentance, are, of course, “I have not yet begun to repent.” Sound discouraging? And yet, this is precisely what the discipline of Lent – and the full service of the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, joined to the life of St. Mary of Egypt, which we are about to celebrate here in the depths of Great Lent – enjoins us to do.

We begin our Christian life with repentance – with “metanoia”, the change of mind that is to characterize us as Christians. In repenting, we recognize that we are not what we were made to be – that we have fallen short of the glory of God which we were created to dwell in – and we resolve, with God’s help, to set aside the sin that so easily besets us and to run the race focussed, like Christ, on the joy that is set before us. And then what we find is that we have to continue to choose exactly the same thing, day in and day out – breath by laboured breath, we find we need to set aside the same sins as we set aside with the previous breath; we find ourselves turning aside from exactly the same sins that distracted us the last time we ran this same lap; the race of repentance seems to be the Grouse Grind of painfully laboured marathons!

And yet, somehow or other we find, in God’s mercy, that we reach the end. Not the ultimate End yet, perhaps, but the blessed joy of Pascha, which seems every year to spring at us out of the darkness like one of those unlooked-for blessings: a joyous relief and release which brings us the promise of the Resurrection. For even as we continue in the discipline of repentance that we started with, we find ourselves blessed with the forgiveness that we so long for and the divine Reconciliation that we so desperately need. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Let us persevere, then, brothers and sisters, in the discipline of repentance, that we may once again be blessed, together, with the joy-unlooked-for of the divine forgiveness of the Resurrection!