One of the great joys of my life so far occurred the other night/morning as I looked at my mom’s and grandma’s face while they watched the Paschal procession. “Radiant and peaceful” is an understatement. Afterwards, the next day, they tried to explain it to family members and realized what my sister and I had been saying: There are no words.
Earlier this week, I wrote about how much I “missed” the Paschal services and the journey through Holy Week. My priest rightly pointed out that there was no need to “miss” it because the season continues. We constantly celebrate the Resurrection throughout the 40 days of Pascha and then again on every Sunday.
Then yesterday, the wonderful Fr. Stephen explored this further at his blog:
To speak of ourselves as living “in-between” or to think of liturgy as mere remembrance, is to place history in the primary position, relegating the Kingdom of God to a lower status. It is the essence of secularism. The Kingdom of God is not denied – it is simply placed beyond our reach (as we are placed beyond its reach). The Kingdom, like God Himself, is reduced to an idea.
Living “in-between” is part of the loneliness and alienation of the modern Christian. Things are merely things, time is inexorable and impenetrable. There is an anxiety that accompanies all of this that is marked by doubt, argument and opinion. Faith is directed towards things past or things that have not yet happened.
This stands in sharp contrast to St. Paul’s statement in Hebrews: “Faith is the substance (hypostasis) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11:1). The relationship of faith with things “hoped for and not seen” is more than a trust that they will be, more than a longing for what is not. Faith is the very substance of such things…
By faith, we do not live in-between. By faith, we live in a one-storey universe in which the realities of God’s Kingdom permeate our existence. We are not alone nor need we be alienated. The anxiety that haunts our every step is produced by a false perception – a delusion.
Orthodoxy stands in stark contrast to Western Christianity in so many ways, but one way is its understanding of time and the Kingdom of God. As Fr. Stephen says, we live in a one-storey universe. God is not remote and distant, but here and now in a way that we don’t understand. When we worship in the Liturgy every Sunday, we believe and feel in a real way, that we are entering into something ongoing. We become participants in worship that the angels are engaging in, that the saints are engaging in, have engaged in, will engage in. He is present everywhere and fills all things. He is the Beginning and the End. And He is with us and in us. The work of the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to see this.
In a strange and beautiful way, that Kingdom of God seeps through into our reality. The more we become like Christ, the more conscious of it we become and the more real our dwelling there in our being.
When I worshiped during Holy Week, Pascha and every other time, I didn’t so much believe in something that happened or have faith that something will happen. I am not looking back historically or hoping for something in the future. I was not “in-between” two worlds, but rather the Kingdom oozed through into mine.
I believe that is what my mom and grandma saw. I don’t need to “miss it,” though I believe I can long to find it again. But it is not so distant, not so removed. It is where I belong.