• March 16, 2016
en

Lent: A Journey to Pascha

Demchuk Ivanka - Holy Trinity
(Board, levkas, egg tempera,
30x40, 2014)
Copyright Iconart Gallery, Lviv

Excerpt from Great Lent, by Fr Alexander Schmemann

When a man leaves on a journey, he must know where he is going. Thus with Lent. Above all, Lent is a spir­i­tual journey and its des­ti­na­tion is Easter, “the Feast of Feasts.” It is the prepa­ra­tion for the “ful­fill­ment of Pascha, the true Revelation.” We must begin, there­fore, by trying to under­stand this con­nec­tion between Lent and Easter, for it reveals some­thing very essen­tial, very cru­cial about our Christian faith and life. Is it nec­es­sary to explain that Easter is much more than one of the feasts, more than a yearly com­mem­o­ra­tion of a past event? Anyone who has, be it only once, taken part in that night which is “brighter than the day,” who has tasted of that unique joy, knows it. [...] On Easter we cel­e­brate Christ’s Resurrection as some­thing that hap­pened and still hap­pens to us. For each one of us received the gift of that new life and the power to accept it and live by it. It is a gift which rad­i­cally alters our atti­tude toward every­thing in this world, including death. It makes it pos­sible for us to joy­fully affirm: “Death is no more!” Oh, death is still there, to be sure, and we still face it and someday it will come and take us. But it is our whole faith that by His own death Christ changed the very nature of death, made it a pas­sage — a “passover,” a “Pascha” — into the Kingdom of God, trans­forming the tragedy of tragedies into the ulti­mate vic­tory. [...]

If we realize this, then we may under­stand what Easter is and why it needs and pre­sup­poses Lent. For we may then under­stand that the litur­gical tra­di­tions of the Church, all its cycles and ser­vices, exist, first of all, in order to help us recover the vision and the taste of that new life which we so easily lose and betray, so that we may repent and return to it. [...] And yet the “old” life, that of sin and pet­ti­ness, is not easily over­come and changed. The Gospel expects and requires from man an effort of which, in his pre­sent state, he is vir­tu­ally inca­pable. [...] This is where Great Lent comes in. This is the help extended to us by the Church, the school of repen­tance which alone will make it pos­sible to receive Easter not as mere per­mis­sion to eat, to drink, and to relax, but indeed as the end of the “old” in us, as our entrance into the “new.” [...] For each year Lent and Easter are, once again, the redis­covery and the recovery by us of what we were made through our own bap­tismal death and res­ur­rec­tion.

A journey, a pil­grimage! Yet, as we begin it, as we make the first step into the “bright sad­ness” of Lent, we see — far, far away — the des­ti­na­tion. It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the Kingdom. And it is this vision, the fore­taste of Easter, that makes Lent’s sad­ness bright and our lenten effort a “spir­i­tual spring.” The night may be dark and long, but all along the way a mys­te­rious and radiant dawn seems to shine on the horizon. “Do not deprive us of our expec­ta­tion, O Lover of man!” Glory be to God!

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