This month, once again, we gather to commemorate the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. With love that cannot be measured He offered Himself, not just for Orthodox Christians, but for all of humanity. His sacrifice has marked us out of this world and saved us from death forevermore. Unlike the earthly anniversaries we celebrate, this is not something we remember once a year. This Pascha simultaneously happened 2000 years ago and is happening to us here and now. Holy Week and Pascha bring fully to our minds and hearts the reality of that Life Christ has given to us. The ever present question for each of us is how are we receiving that life and what we are doing with it? There is only one answer to that question – to love one another.

In St. John’s gospel Christ says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:34-35) The kind of love Christ is calling us to is not simply a good feeling one has toward another. In fact, it is often quite the opposite. He commands us to go beyond some basic rules that fulfill a requirement in the Law. He tells us not to be angry with our brother without cause, to delve into and root out the lust of our heart, to offer our cheek to those who wish us harm, and to love our enemies! It is difficult to make sense of this especially in a world that demands justice even for the slightest offense. Without uniting ourselves to Christ it is impossible. But He teaches us that “with God all things are possible.” (Mat 19:26).

The divine services in Holy Week and Pascha are not simply pageantry for our entertainment, or a way to help us mark one more year on the calendar and celebrate a mundane family tradition. They are meant to bring us to our knees, in expectation of that final day of judgment, that we might now begin to learn from Him what it means to love one another; to know that Christ is present in all things offering Himself to each one of us that we might be united in Him. If we walk away from these saving days not having understood this, at least a little deeper, then we have done ourselves the greatest disservice.

Christ’s love is an ever flowing action working upon, in, and through us. If this is the case, then cannot be passive receivers of it. Our love needs to be active as well. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;” (Rom 12:10-11) We must love enthusiastically and try as much as possible to be kind and affectionate. We must do this not just once or twice, but diligently – meaning continuously and in every aspect of our lives. Love is not indifferent either. Not hating or being angry with your brother or sister (at this particular moment) is not the same as loving them. If we are to serve and be faithful to our Lord, we must hear His word – His commandments – and do them! The more we do this, the more He fills up with His love. In these actions we are transformed into that which He created us – co–creators of love, compassion, and mercy. And the more we are able to understand in a deep and authentic way what His love is.

As we prepare ourselves once again to receive His light on Great and Holy Pascha, let us pray to Him to ignite that flame in us, to become instruments of His love throughout the whole world. So that not just a remnant, but all nations come to seek the knowledge of His Love and enter into the joy of His heavenly kingdom forevermore.

Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!