Illumined by the Feast

“This is the day of resurrection. Let us be illumined by the feast. Let us embrace each other. Let us call “brothers” even those who hate us, and forgive all by the resurrection” (Matins of Pascha)

We chant the Nicene Creed at every baptism and Divine Liturgy. It is mandatory for membership in the Holy Orthodox faith. Unless a person openly confesses belief in every word, he or she does not belong to the true faith in Jesus Christ. When we sing the glorious words above heard after midnight on Holy Pascha night, we proclaim the conditions for life in that Kingdom of God which our risen Lord has opened on our behalf. The cycle of worship evolves into the celebration of Christ’s ascension into heaven, followed in ten days by Pentecost; however, the attitude of affection towards one another inspires the children of God to mutual love in Christ Jesus. That never ends because:

“This is the day of resurrection.” Every Sunday is the day of resurrection, and just as we stand without kneeling throughout the Divine Liturgy to remind ourselves of Pasha, the Feast of Feasts, we are reminding ourselves that we live not just by the calendar but that we are alive in Christ, and in Him our souls are already lifted up beyond space and time to the everlasting Kingdom of the Holy Trinity. We are already there in prayer while our journey through this lifetime has yet to be accomplished. We realize the great gift of adoption brought to us in Christ when He taught us to treat the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth as “Our Father.” We dare not ever take for granted what Jesus Christ has done for us in order that we may be blessed with the gift of family membership into the Holy Trinity. Through His flesh He manifested the Father whom human beings did not know, and through the Holy Spirit He leads those people whom He reconciled in Himself to the heavenly Father. [St. Maximus Confessor, Commentary on Our Father]

“This is the day” that has no sunset. Although we consider as most precious each day of our lives here on earth, struggling in any way to prolong our time in this world for as long as possible, nevertheless, we can say with St. Paul: “My life is hidden with Christ in God.” Prayer is our outreach to the heavenly Kingdom that lies ahead. While our minds and bodies are caught up with things of the world, our souls and spirits are already experiencing the joy of life everlasting.

The holy Church, the Eden of instruction and wisdom, invites us to understand the implications of life in God’s Kingdom: “Let us be illumined by the feast.” Let our Lord Jesus, the Light of the world, shine in our hearts with the awareness of how we must behave towards each other as saved siblings. Why do those rescued from a capsized boat instinctively wrap their arms around one another in happy gratitude? So should we who pray together through the Great Lent rejoice in the euphoria of affirming Christ’s resurrection by forgiving one another, sharing holy kisses and inspiring our spiritual sisters and brothers with the Holy Spirit of truth and the life in Christ.

How long does that heavenly attitude last? Could a visitor to our sacred Eucharist celebration discern a sense of mutual love permeating the congregation? How might it be expressed? Here is the ultimate evangelical ingredient. The baptismal commandment: “Go out and make disciples of all people,” could be fulfilled not only by going out but by giving witness in our holy assembly of God’s Kingdom here on earth, experienced among us. The expert in fine jewels may find the precious pearl of faith here in our Church: the one with a hidden fortune would know she is saved by the manifestations of love and the willingness to “forgive all by the resurrection.” Love and forgiveness are the expressions of the personality traits essential for eternal life in the Kingdom of love.