Reflections on the Paschal season
Protopresbyter Dr Doru Costache
Part Two: The Second Sunday
Recorded on 29 April 2020
Topic: The opening of our eyes towards understanding and life
The Paschal Revolution: Beyond the Forty Days with the Risen Lord
Reflection on the festival’s scriptural readings: Acts 5:12–20. John 20:19–31.
Excerpt from Reading Scripture in the Orthodox Church: The Sunday Cycle (pp. 21-22)
Like Thomas, most people experience doubt and uncertainty. This is why the Gospels were written, so that we might believe in the Lord on the testimony of his first witnesses. The Gospel of Christ has the power to change lives and to renew us. In the case of Thomas, the change was instantaneous. The same goes for the people in Jerusalem who listened to the apostles and were healed. But for other people the change is not easy and takes time. They change eventually if they keep an open mind and take the leap of faith by trusting the witnesses of the Lord, past and present. Furthermore, should they continue to walk on the path, they will see the light of Christ, their own perceptiveness sharpening. Their eyes will open to perceive the truth of the Gospel. This new perception will be made possible by their changed life, to the extent that their personal renewal will become the ultimate proof of the truth. It happened to the apostles, who witnessed the new life. There is no more compelling proof of the Gospel than one’s change of life in accordance with the Gospel. For the believers who undertake this change, light remains inextricably entwined with life. They see more and more clearly, proportional to their advancement in the newness of life, and they live fuller, in proportion to their progress in faith and knowledge of the Lord. Thus they become trustworthy witnesses, the salt and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13–16), without whom the Gospel is reduced to mere words. Thus they stand up for the words of this new life.
Reflection on the festival’s message
Excerpt from The Orthodox Spring: A Diary (p. 59-61)
Christ is risen! To rise in Christ, here and now, means to open our mind and heart to understand the nature of things. And the nature of things is life—the fulness of life. Until we are reborn in Christ and with him, our perception of reality is dramatically limited, impaired, twice veiled; for this reason, our life is not full, but shallow. The veils of the mind are ignorance and our passionate attachment to the surface of things (Saint Maximus the Confessor, To Thalassius, prologue). A veiled mind cannot escape shallowness. The following analogy gives us an idea of what shallowness is. Let’s imagine a unidimensional universe, specifically, our very selves living in a flat world, as thin as a sheet of paper. There is neither depth nor height to this form of existence. Nothing beyond the surface of things. Now, figure it out: this is precisely how we live before we meet Christ. We lead a shallow, unidimensional life, accumulative and pointless, being extremely passionate about it. Truth be told, we are absolutely passionate about merely nothing. At best, what we are so much passionate about has the consistency of that sheet of paper. But our superficial attachment to the outer shell of things is not without consequences: it deceives, giving us the impression of being alive. And since the surface of things is insubstantial, it requires from us to seek more of it. Thus are we caught in the vicious circle of a pointless existence. Ignorance will keep entertaining our reassuring narrative, however, only until the Light shines in our darkness too—unbearable, invincible, dispelling ignorance. When that happens, we must stop living in denial; we must stop lying to ourselves. When that happens, we must open our mind and heart, seeing the depths beneath and the heights above our sheet of paper. This is the promise of the Gospel: fullness, not emptiness. Christ is the promise. This is what he promises: I am the life of the world; I am the light of the world; I am the bread of life; I will give you the living water; I am the good shepherd; I am the resurrection and the life; I am the true vine; I am the way, the truth, and the life. When we wake up to him from shallowness, from our current death, we live; we walk in the light; we eat and drink; rivers of living water well-up from our heart; we walk under guidance, not aimlessly; we change and live truly; our existence is grafted into the vine of eternal life; we slide through the rabbit hole towards the wonderland of truth and life. When that happens, our sheet of paper gets depth and height. Life and perception become more intense and ampler. This is Christ’s paschal work, and the Gospel makes no other promise. Let no mouth open to gainsay it. Glory be to him!
29 April 2020 © AIOCS