Monday, May 25, 2020

The Leavetaking of Pascha and the Ascension of Christ

Dear Parish Faithful,

Christ is Risen!
Indeed He is Risen!

The Leave-taking of Pascha is Approaching - The sacred forty days during which the Church expresses the paschal joy of Christ's Resurrection is just about over, as the Leave-taking will occur this coming Wednesday. 
For forty days we proclaimed that "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!"  Of course, the Church always proclaims the Resurrection of Christ as that astounding event - an event that even transcends the very notion of the historical - is the very basis for the existence of the Church. Yet, during the paschal season the intensity and depth and breadth of that proclamation stands out within our liturgical life. 
I have included the link below as a fine example of how the paschal troparion is sung in a seemingly endless variation of musical styles. I believe the link below takes us into the world of the Georgian Orthodox Church (please correct me if I am mistaken). I further believe that the presentation is dependent upon the current pandemic, as the "choir" is a medley of isolated voices coming together with a wonderful sense of harmony and coordination via today's technology. A fine blend of the traditional and the contemporary. I believe you will enjoy it. 

Although we bid farewell to Pascha, we now anticipate the two great feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, without with Pascha loses its power and purpose. 
The Feast of Ascension - somewhat neglected and overlooked - will also mark our parish return to the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and thus of the Eucharist. We are still quite restricted in our actual worshipers in the church, but we are certain that we are moving toward a fuller reopening in the days ahead. 
We have some great resources on our parish website for Ascension, including many beautiful icons and some "classic" articles on the meaning of the feast. I would highly recommend that you carefully read the article by Fr. George Florovsky that you will find posted there. You will never look at the Ascension the same way once you read Fr. Florovsky!

Memorial DaySo far we are enjoying a beautiful Memorial Day here in the tri-state area. I hope you all enjoy the day as well as possible. At yesterday morning's service we added a short Memorial Service for the departed in honor of this civil observance. We prayed for both men and women who have lost their lives in military service to their country. It is a genuine sacrifice. Those are painful and unforgettable losses especially for the family members who have lost someone in this manner. Presvytera and I still vividly recall the funeral of a young man in our parish in Detroit who was killed in Vietnam many years ago now. Perhaps everyone else has such a painful memory. But we also prayed yesterday for the countless innocent victims of war - men, women and children - caught up in the horrors of occupation, combat, rapacity, reprisals and simply wanton destruction. Innocent victims are not "collateral damage" - they are all human beings who became tragic victims of causes far beyond their capacity to control or escape. However we approach the concept of a "just war," deep down we all know that "war is hell" as it has been strikingly captured once and for all in that timeless definition. 

We should not lose sight of the connection between the paschal nature of the Church's witness to the world and Memorial Day - or any Memorial Service.  "Memory Eternal" is not a pious phrase reminding us that we will always retain "good memories" of our lost loved ones. It is a bold affirmation that every human being is contained within the "memory" of the eternal and loving God who has revealed Himself most fully in Christ. If a human being is eternally "remembered" by God, then that person is never lost to the ravages of history and time. The Resurrection of Christ - the passage from death to life - is the eternal pledge of the gathering together of all human being from ages past in the Memory of God.

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