the Paschal crescendo

Though I've spent uncounted hours the last couple months in hospital rooms, emergency departments, and doctors' offices, I have also lived a lot (as has been true the past four years) at church. Now I'm experiencing my fifth Paschal feast in Orthodox Christianity. Here, "Pascha" (which is a translation of "Passover," for the Orthodox the Passover of Christ) often falls on a different Sunday than Western Easter. Calendar changes in history are responsible for the discrepancy, but thanks to both celebrations' connection with the lunar cycle, they can fall on the same day.

This past Sunday I joined the hike up Spencer Butte, in south Eugene, to watch our Pascha sun rise. This was after our celebratory service, which began at 11:30 Saturday night and ended between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. I was, literally, the last one of the group boosted up the butte. I couldn't pull myself any higher on the boulders for the pic, below, taken by a friendly hiker from another group.

I was all in. But my smile was genuine. I'm grateful to have participated as much as I've been able to this year. This participation--what it consists of--is quite difficult to capture and express. Especially for someone who, up until four years ago, thought following a faith interpretation rooted in creative human ideas and rationality was as good as it gets on this boulder-strewn globe.

(I now appreciate more deeply the apostle Nathaniel's first reaction to being told by Philip that a man called Jesus was the longed-for Jewish Messiah. "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Nathaniel asked, to which his friend responded, "Come and see.")

Last Pascha (which coincided with Western Easter) I didn't hike but remained more rational, crawling into bed before dawn and dozing. My mind found words of expression, though, which kept me awake enough to record them in my notebook:

"Pascha," I wrote, "is entering into the crescendo of what is lived and expressed every month, week, and day of the year in the [Orthodox] Church.

"The elements of Pascha are always present: the aspects/tools/expressions of life in Christ (which is life "hidden" with Christ in God). No matter how fervently the bells ring, no matter how brightly the candles glow, this is a hidden life. It cannot be broadcast; it is not desired by the masses, or even by any group of people.

"It is personal. Yet it is community in a profound sense, one into which each member is born rather than initiated, having no sense beforehand of what will come, no preconceptions (at least, none that are accurate). Like siblings, the family members make room for each new child. As in any family, nothing is executed with perfection; there are many growing pains.

"Pascha, the Resurrection of Christ, is always present, ever central. Life in this household (or, if you prefer, the voyage on this ship, the journey along this path) is the memorial to Christ until He appears, until He comes. It is what continually goes on. It is the food and drink, the exercise, the therapy, the struggle, the way."