I had spent the whole night repenting and praying for mercy. Still I was unworthy, and I knew it. The moment of crisis was at hand for I was to take Christ into me, and that communion means both a gracious love and a true love. And as truly as I am not holy I fear the judgment of God’s fiercesome Love.
As I took the Holy Mysteries on Holy Saturday my mind was turned to those words from our service; that I may be “worthy although unworthy”. And as I returned “like a lion breathing fire” from the table my soul rose – Let our mouths be filled with Your praise, Lord, that we may sing of Your glory. For thou hast made us worthy to partake of Your holy mysteries… Alleluia. I have endured the crisis, I thought to myself, by the Grace of God – Lord have mercy.
I had experienced the fearful moment of communion with Christ, the microcosm of my salvation. And I went home to joyfully repent once more, because now I have to live with Christ inside of me and I am a sinner.
When I returned to Church at night for the Paschal service I found the comfort of my repentant habit taken from me, and I was handed instead, a feast. This was suddenly very awkward for me. It may be difficult to understand, but for me this was akin to the awkwardness I feel when I’m given a gift or an incredible compliment. In my morbidity and my unhealthy self-debasement I don’t receive things I don’t deserve well. I am more comfortable receiving undeserved crap from a “cruel friend” than an undeserved gift. It often makes me feel that I have lost some control in the relationship: I want only what I can earn and so I choke on the festal food. What a shameful sin: a gift is a wonderful thing, and denying it and failing to rejoice with it is a saddening thing to the giver and a harmful thing to my soul.
It may be better to give then to receive, but I found that I have grossly neglected my ineptitude at receiving good things. Before this Pascha I have regretted my ineptitude solely on the awkwardness it caused between me and a couple nice people. It always seemed to me that that is the side that one wants to err on; overthanking for gifts, shocked at unwarranted kindness and love. It used to seem that it would be far more beneficial for my soul if I was to make sure to stay on that side of the fine line.
But as a Christian, and after this Pascha, I’m not sure that I can say that anymore. What a more tragic thing to do but to be unable to accept things that we don’t deserve? Isn’t that the main activity of the Christian? Everything that predicates my relationship with Christ is built on His gigantic generosity. Everything, from the startling nature of the night sky, to the depth in my lover’s eyes are things I don’t deserve. More particularly Christian are the gifts of the Grace in the sacraments, in prayer, and the Church. How can someone who is too self- concerned to accept a free coffee be free to accept the Son of God incarnate and bleeding on the cross for them? To be able to accept these gracious gifts is to Love God – and without the proper acceptation of them there can be no relationship with God.
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return” is the mantra from Moulin Rogue. Though it is a manta it is still truthful, particularly because it shows the circuit of Love as a whole. Thus it is the greatest thing (singular) and not the greatest things (pl) that we’ll ever learn.
Accepting so great an undeserved gift is truly an art, and it cannot happen without a pure heart. So we must work on being malleable and sympathetic creatures that can with one harmonious heart cry out “Lord have mercy,” understanding the fragility of our goodness and the hopelessness of out state while simultaneously having the confidence to reach out for that heartily requested mercy when it is given to us. These holidays are the joyous rest stops and guide maps of our life, so let us model our behavior to those saints in the feast that we recall.
Today rejoice! I have been given life! How the disciples must have felt when Christ appeared to them, in a moment reversing their sorrow into sincerest victory! How their mournful vigilance was swiftly about-faced, sling-shooting them into the blessed joy!
I am a sluggish worshiper, I have arrived at Lent just in time for Pascha. I have much to learn from the Holy Day. Lent has been long and trying – so long that it seemed like forever ago. Still, and with all my fervor I am late for Pascha.
St. Seraphim of Sarov reached the point where everyday was Pascha. Everyday was Holy for he could repent and rejoice together without whole season – and I’m sure he could still have a more genuine response to both than I have mustered this year.
It is time to repent of my inability to rejoice – and then go out and do my best at a Christian response to victory. Behold all is ready, come to the feast! There will be singing and dancing, and all manner of graciousness – so sing with Christ and dance on the grave of Death.