It happens in all but an instant. After weeks of intensely rigorous prayer, fasting and spiritual challenge, the pious period of preparation has given way to fulfillment and celebration. From the darkness, a single light from the top of the Altar is lifted, transmitted and multiplied as the triumphant Church sings praises to our God who could not be contained by death and the sway of the devil. Our God lives. Our God reigns. Our God is risen from the dead and has transformed His tomb into a source of life.

As we congregate in the darkened church in anticipation of the glorious Resurrection, our eyes eventually settle in the small, flickering taper that emerges; seemingly from nowhere of this earth. The Royal Gates are thrown open and our spirit-filled ears are invited to this awesome celebration of life as we hear, resoundingly and with great conviction: “Come receive the Light from the unwaning Light, and glorify Christ who is risen from the dead.” At this very moment, Hades groans and the evil one is put to shame.

The hymns of the Church recall for us, the humiliation of Satan, as he cries “My dominion has been swallowed up; the Shepherd has been crucified and He raised Adam. I am deprived of those whom I once ruled; in my strength I devoured them, but now I have cast them forth. He who was crucified has emptied the tombs, and the power of death no longer has strength.” Satan can no longer claim any power of his own. His only source of strength comes from what we allow him to take from us. He feeds from our sin and delights from our destruction; he continues to dwell in the dark shadows from which Christ Himself rescued us.

The light received in the early hours of Pascha is our symbol of the Resurrection. It is our reminder that Christ illumines the dark path. It is our source of hope, strength and especially, victory. The light unites us as a community of faith and a family of believers. We hold the light because we confess the risen Christ. We raise the light because we proclaim His victory. We keep the light because an enduring flame is a lasting reminder of what has taken place. A light squelched by carelessness of by an intentional act of defiance is the reminder that sin is ever present and the devil continues to stalk his prey.

I remember as a child, how we used to keep our Paschal tapers lit as long as possible, even when we took them out into early-morning snow flurries (yes, there has been more than one show-capped Easter in Utah, where I grew up). Watching the cars leave the parking lot of the church with bouncing lights inside them is one of my strongest images Pascha. It continues to be one of my favorite scenes of the season. Protecting that flame was of the upmost priority. In the mind of my youth, it was merely a game. In the heart of a Christian man and an Orthodox priest, it is my intense desire to protect the flame of my faith and the light of Christ at all costs. It is my fervent desire to keep it continually burning within me.

I know very well that we all have the capacity to create darkness. Often times, we are the very wind that extinguishes the delicate flame of pure faith. But remember, that where there are smoldering embers or a glowing wick, there stands Jesus; patient, long-suffering and eternally committed to restoring a blazing spark of power and brilliance.

Pascha is the dawn of a morning and an evening that never comes. It is a sun that never sets and a darkness that cannot exist. The Light of the world is proven and His illumination will never fade. Through the celebration of Pascha and the reception of light – rue light – God’s wisdom is revealed, His power is demonstrated and His mercy is dispensed upon craving children. All this came to be in order that we may live. “For as by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15:21-22)

In this Paschal season, I pray that the entirety of our holy Metropolis receive blessings that only our Father can bestow upon us. Receive the Light. Celebrate the Light. Tend to the Light. Let us all work to preserve the flame that is within each of us and to serve with vigor and inspiration. Glory be to our Risen Lord!