Monday, April 25, 2011

One thing I am not particularly keen on for this Pascha

Xristos anesti! Alithos anesti! Kalo Pascha to all my Orthodox brethren who have journeyed long and waited for the Light and Life to burst forth from the darkness of Hades and destroyed death by death. Let us rejoice and be glad in this day since for 40 days it will be with us (liturgically, that is)!

Despite the problems with Pascha that I had (the Paschal Kanon wasn't pulled off as we had hoped and practiced, but hey, there's always next year), this was a joyous Pascha and it should always be joyous no matter what. This year, however, there's one thing that annoys me. It's that Pascha coincided with Western Easter. Now, what's wrong with that?

Regardless of whether the Eastern Pascha or the Western Easter actually do coincide, modern media always appear to need to point out Christianity's "defects", whether in doctrine, its practices, its clergy, its adherents in general (especially if those adherents take it seriously), its Sacred Scriptures or, in this particular case, its "disunity." Article after article this year remarked about how great it was that Western Easter and Eastern Pascha coincided and then wondered why this wasn't the case. Of course, even a cursory reading of history would yield the answer, but most media outlets can't be trusted to do that. Yet, it goes further. Media outlets for "Christian unity organizations" such as the NCC, the WCC and other ecumenical bodies immediately point out just how lamentable it is that Pascha and Easter coincide once every so many years (the next time we coincide is not until 2018, I think).

The lamentation that the Eastern Christians who celebrate Pascha one week later or, in some cases, a month later, is projected as stubbornness, a failure to get with the times, a failure to acknowledge the Pope as Supreme Overlord of the Church (My copy of Acts has never had the chapter where, following the death of Peter and Paul, the Christians declared that there should be a pope, as some Catholics suggest), etc..

I, for one, rejoice in the fact that the Orthodox celebrate, in general, at least a week later. The reason for lamentation, say the ecumenists, is that the Orthodox churches (and I'm including the Oriental Orthodox in this) by holding on to the calculation of Pascha using the Julian Calendar are giving a divided witness to the world. If we were to be absolutely honest, it is the various flavors of Western Christianity which are providing the divided witness. On Pascha, the Orthodox Church proclaims that death has been destroyed by our incarnate Lord bestowing on us forgiveness and the ability to change, to become like God. This is the message, the kerygma. Contrast Western Christianity.

Western Christian confessions can/will proclaim any one or more of the following:
1) that Christ's Resurrection is a mere metaphor
2) that Christ was punished
3) that Christ's Passion is a rallying cry to do more social work and love your fellow man
4) that Christ justified man kind
5) that Christ atoned for the sins of mankind
7) that Christ's Resurrection is an assurance of our resurrection
8) that Christ destroyed the devil
9) that Christ's Resurrection is so that we can be better people
10) that Christ's death and Resurrection is for everyone, regardless of whether you believe
11) that Christ's death and Resurrection is only juridical in nature and has no ontological value for man.

In of themselves, save for numbers 1 and 2, which I have huge problems with and with numbers 3 and 9 which are the bread and butter for those who preach "liberation problem" and with number 10 which is the heresy known as "universalism", those things listed above are not wrong or a misinterpretation of what Christ has done. The problems lie when one stands as pars pro toto for a certain confession's theology and everything else is thrown out. If anyone is giving divided witness, it is Western Christendom. Eastern Christendom has preached the same thing from day one.

Hence, I rejoice when Pascha and Easter do not coincide--it is a chance for the world to be informed of the whole meaning of Pascha through the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church. It is Western Christendom that distorts the message. When Pascha follows Easter, it is a chance for the truth to shine out instead of having it drowned out in the cacophany of praise band services and guitar masses when Pascha and Easter are on the same day.

So, unlike the ecumenists, I am a little disheartened that Pascha and Easter coincided. I am though glad to know that there is next to no chance of the Orthodox churches actually agreeing to a universal date of Pascha/Easter which would be tantamount to the Orthodox Church sanctioning of heresy.

Xristos anesti! Let us keep the feast, and its truth, with gladness!