Yandex Metrika
Words of Wisdom from Modern Ascetics about the Passover of the Lord

Four Discourses on Pascha

Christ’s Resurrection

Archimandrite John (Maslov)

Pascha, the culmination of all Christian celebrations, transcends all others. As Saint Epiphanius of Cyprus proclaims in his Paschal discourse, “The feast of Pascha surpasses all, a celebration of renewal and salvation for the whole world. This festival reigns supreme, the pinnacle of all holy days…” In sacred hymns, the Church exalts Pascha as the preeminent feast, the one that flings open the gates of paradise. It is hailed as Holy Week, the radiant Resurrection of Christ, a time when both earthly and heavenly realms, seen and unseen, join in glorious praise with the resounding cry, “Christ is risen, eternal joy!”

St. Gregory the Theologian, in his 45th Oration on Pascha, declares: “Now is the world’s salvation, for all creation, visible and invisible. Christ has risen from the dead; rise with Him! In His glory, ascend too! Christ is free from the tomb; be unbound from the shackles of sin! Hell’s gates are flung open, and death itself is vanquished. This is our feast of feasts, the celebration that outshines all others, surpassing all other observances in Christ’s honour, as the sun outshines the stars.”

Archimandrite John Maslov

Archimandrite John (Maslov)

The very word “Pascha” finds its roots in the Old Testament festival of Passover, named from the Hebrew “Pesach,” meaning “to pass over.” This commemorates the ancient Exodus when the Jews were delivered from Egyptian bondage. The angel of death, smiting the firstborn of Egypt, “passed over” the houses of the Israelites marked with the blood of the Passover lamb.

Within the Christian Church, “Pascha” acquires a profound new meaning. It signifies the passage from death to life, from earth to heavens, as the sacred hymns express: “Pascha, the Passover of the Lord! From death to life, and from earth to heaven Christ our Lord has led us, singing victory!”

Christ’s Resurrection serves as a display of God’s almighty power in the grand scheme of our salvation. He descended into the depths of hell after death, but by His sovereign will. There, He conquered death as God and Master, rising again on the third day. With Him, He raised Adam and all of humanity from the grip of hell and decay.

The risen body of our Saviour is no longer subject to death, but is now immortal and glorious, destined for an eternal life that is spiritual, heavenly, and ever-new. By shattering the very gates of death, Christ blazed a trail for us, revealing the path to genuine life and unlocking the door to immortality.

The celebration of Easter finds its roots in the Apostolic Church, where it was observed with great solemnity from the very beginning. In those early days, the Church considered two weeks to be part of Easter: the week leading up to Christ’s Resurrection and the week that followed. These distinct periods were given special names: Passion Pascha and Resurrection Pascha. However, after the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, these terms faded from use. New terminology emerged — Holy Week and Bright Week — with the Resurrection Day itself called Pascha.

The early centuries of Christianity saw variations in the date of Easter observance. Eastern Churches in Asia Minor celebrated it on the 14th day of Nisan (usually in March), no matter which day of the week it fell on. The Western Church, seeing it inappropriate to celebrate Easter in lockstep with the Jewish Passover, observed it on the first Sunday following the spring equinox’s full moon. In the mid-2nd century, Saint Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, endeavoured to bridge this divide between the Churches, but his efforts proved futile. These two distinct customs for celebrating Christ’s Resurrection persisted until the First Ecumenical Council in AD 325. This council decreed a universal celebration of Pascha, following the established rules of the Church of Alexandria. Pascha would fall on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, within the window of March 22nd to April 25th. This ensured that the Christian Easter would always come after the Jewish Passover.

Saint Paisios of Mount Athos

Saint Paisios of Mount Athos

Genuine joy can only be found in Christ, for He alone offers true happiness and spiritual solace. Where Christ dwells, there is true joy and heavenly rejoicing. Those who remain distant from Christ are bereft of this genuine joy. They may chase after fleeting fancies, whispering, “I’ll do this and that, travel here and there.” They may accumulate accolades, indulge in revelry, and experience a passing sense of joy, but this pleasure will never satiate their souls. This is a worldly joy, material and temporary. It cannot fill the void within the human heart. Remember the words of Solomon: “I built houses and planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and orchards and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them; I gathered silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and provinces; I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds. So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also, my wisdom remained with me. Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labour; And this was my reward from all my labour. Then I looked at all the works that my hands had done and on the labour in which I had toiled; indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11). Worldly joy offers a fleeting sweetness, a momentary pleasure, unlike the spiritual joy that is a foretaste of paradise. Those who have embraced the weight of the Cross and risen spiritually dwell in the constant and radiant joy of Easter. “Truly, Easter is the Pascha of the Lord!”

Inner joy blossoms after order is established within. It grants wings to the soul. Until the soul is enlivened by internal effort, it resembles a cold engine — it requires a push to get going. This internal action — sobriety, attentiveness, instruction, and prayer — acts like a warm-up for the soul, igniting the engine and setting the machine in motion. Then, a person transcends external distractions and makes significant strides in their spiritual life.

Elder Ephraim of Arizona

Elder Ephraim of Arizona

In this earthly realm, our celebration of Holy Pascha is brief. The joy eventually fades, giving way to sorrows, disappointments, temptations, and other trials. However, in the celestial realm, in a world yet to come, Easter will be an everlasting celebration, an eternal joy with no end. It will be an Easter that never sets!

When Christ returns to judge the world, He will ascend the Throne of Glory, separating the righteous from the sinners and delivering a final judgment upon all. Some will rise to Heaven, while others will descend into everlasting torment. Then, Christ, accompanied by His holy angels and all the saints, will return to Heaven. Leading the triumphant procession will be Christ Himself, followed by the angels and saints, all singing hymns of Easter and chanting the victorious anthem of the Resurrection: “Celebrating the eternal Pascha!”

e-book-about-St-Elisabeth

Imagine a radiant light, so brilliant that it bathes every face and creature in its glow. This is the Divine Light of the Resurrection, lifting all to inherit Paradise, the Kingdom of Heaven, the heavenly Jerusalem. “The day of the Resurrection, let us be radiant, O people: Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha!” All will sing, play their instruments, and celebrate in the divinely ordained order, a heavenly choir, unlike anything mortal minds can conceive.

Here, for the first time, the saved will truly grasp what God has prepared for those who, by His grace, have overcome the world. The holy fathers have described the scene: Christ enthroned in glory, awarding each saint a crown and a place in Paradise, befitting their spiritual rank. Witnessing the boundless beauty and wisdom unveiled before them, now their own possession, and the promise of eternal life with no more death, the saints will be awestruck beyond words. “What have we offered to God?” they will marvel, “We who sinned so grievously, yet He grants us Paradise instead of punishment!” For these redeemed souls, the Holy Pascha of Divine Resurrection will be an endless feast, unfathomable joy, inexpressible delight. No sorrow, grief, tears, suffering, or struggle — not a single trace of sadness will mar that blessed life. Salvation is secured once and for all. In Heaven, only endless joy and celebration will reign, with Christ Himself as the radiant Light illuminating the entire Heavenly realm.

Archpriest Andrey Lemesonok

Archpriest Andrey Lemesonok

Death is conquered! Can you grasp that? And we must live with this truth because a life lived on the edge of the grave becomes hell itself. When we hide from ourselves, existence becomes unbearable. Self-deception and confusion over simple matters turn life into torment. We cannot avoid suffering, but there are different kinds: some lead a person to eternal life, others — to eternal death.

Today, we have entered into the joy of the Lord. But earthly joys are fleeting. Something might hurt us, we might lose someone we love, or something dear to us might go missing or be destroyed. People cling to the love they share, fearing the inevitable parting and the nothingness that will follow. Yet, it is essential to understand that these partings are temporary. We will be together again, forevermore! The Kingdom of Heaven is a victory over loneliness, a haven from self-imposed isolation when someone closes themselves off in their shell and thinks their life is wonderful.

Wealth, honour, fame, and worldly status — all these achievements are as fleeting as smoke. But what riches are truly lasting, what will remain with our souls? True wealth is within us, it is achieved by gathering God’s gifts, and by seeking richness in God (c.f. Luke 12:21). Tonight’s vigil is a precious offering placed in our heavenly treasury. Though weary from the service, a holy weariness it is! We have toiled for the Lord, not in vain pursuits that leave us empty. “Serve the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11).

This tiny spark of love, this fragment of grace we receive today we must share freely with everyone around us. Give it to each person we encounter — then, and only then, will we conquer loneliness. The people around us are each like a small lantern. Let us all disperse, each like a little lantern throughout this vast city to illuminate the homes we enter and spread the joyous news with every greeting of “Christ is Risen!”

Fresco from the Chora Monastery, Constantinople, 1316–1321

Fresco from the Chora Monastery, Constantinople, 1316–1321

May 02, 2024
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22 days ago
Holy truths! Thank you so much!!! I learn something everytime i read your postings.
Christ is risen! May our tiny lights within shine for those without.
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