The Feast of the Resurrection
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!
At the start of Great Lent I was received into the British Orthodox Church; this is my first Pascha in that Church.
The Liturgy last night at Babingley was intensely moving. As we stood in the darkness, which was broken only by the candles, and the deacons made their responses, it was, indeed, as though we had been there - and as we sang 'Jesus Christ is risen today', I felt it for the first time; really felt it.
Much is made, and rightly so, of the importance of tradition in the Orthodox Church, and at times it is contrasted with the greater emotionalism that is present in some more evangelical forms of the Faith; last night that distinction was without meaning. No feeling could have been deeper than that of being in the presence of the Risen Lord, and of receiving His body and His blood.
The Church at Babingley seemed transformed by His presence. I am not, on the whole, given to emotionalism, and the strength of my reaction surprised me. Yet it was not a 'conversion experience' such as I have read about; I was not filled with emotion as such. It was simply an intense sense of that this Liturgy was, indeed, part of the Heavenly Liturgy, and that as we finished, an Angel of the sacrifice did, indeed, take our worship with Him.
Was it simply a combination of a moving service, an atmospheric Church on an ancient Holy site, and a susceptibility to the occasion? Of course, and I don't rule it out; but I have been in atmospheric Churches on susceptible occasions before, with nothing of the sort happening.
But then I have never before tried to do Lent seriously. I don't pretend to have been able to keep the fast in the way I would have liked; but I tried not to get too hung up on the formalism, but rather to keep my eye on the principle of sacrificing things for His sake; and to keep my mind on Him. Perhaps, then, it is true when they say that the quality of your Pascha depends on the quality of your Lent?
Then, this evening, when I went over to Mickfield to do the Orthodox Vespers, there was another surprise waiting.
Usually we are a small, perhaps select, but certainly small group. I was a trifle nervous, not least since Mark Wright, who does the service with me, was on holiday, and Tim, who has stepped in (magnificently) once before, had not had time to prepare. I reassured him (and myself) that apart from Alan (who directs the music) and his wife, we should probably have no one to notice if we made mistakes.
We had ten in the congregation! Evening prayer felt penitential after the glory of the Liturgy, but that seemed right; it called us all to the need to repent - in the certainty that the Risen Lord had died for our sakes.
He is Risen Indeed!
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)