Friday, April 22, 2011

Pascha in Hamilton

One of my friends asked me what I did during Easter this year. I told him that I spent it in church. Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday, found me living through the Last Supper, the agonizing death and finally the amazing resurrection of Christ. Spending this time in my church, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hamilton, immersed in the words sung these last four days, picturing Christ’s journey, his trial, torture, burial, the empty tomb, and joyous resurrection, removed me from the present day and brought me to Jesus’ time, all the while, pointing out to me, that this time that I know as present day, is fully affected by Jesus’ action. His death wasn’t something in history, something before my time for me to simply read about. At the core of my faith is Christ’s death and resurrection. And I need to ask myself, remind myself perhaps, what that means for me as a Christian and specifically as a Catholic living in the 21st century.
Each Sunday I attend the Divine Liturgy with fellow parishioners in a church built by generations before me, a church built through their faith, hard work, sacrifice, the gift of self. Much as Christ gave himself so that we would be saved, former generations gave of themselves, after work, on weekends, during holidays, to build this beautiful church of today that I and my fellow parishioners enjoy. Their faith unified their vision, brought together their talents, filled their hearts with hope, inspired their minds, and enabled them to create a church, a community united to God in the act of giving and receiving, taking and sharing. This past Easter, as I sang the Resurrection Matins, I thought of Christ’s sacrifice and the sacrifice of the generations who came before me, who sat in the very pew I sat in, who left a beautiful legacy for their children and future generations to come. Christ, in dying on the cross and rising from the dead on the third day, left more for us than a legacy. He left behind a way of life, of being, of footsteps to follow. By death He conquered death so that we could have eternal life, so that our sins would be washed away. In Christ, God gave us something so precious that words cannot really capture this incredible gift. He became the door through which we can be saved
On Easter Sunday, I sang, smelled the incense, watched candles being lighted, joined in the profession of faith, was a partaker in communion, saw Easter baskets being blessed, admired the lilies, and participated in the mirovanie at the end of the Liturgy. I realized that this is my tradition, my Byzantine Catholic faith tradition. My parents and their parents had come to know God through this faith tradition. I had been inspired by the strong faith of those of my parent’s and grandparent’s generation. They were builders, very much in the image of Christ. In sacrificing all so that their children would have a better life than they had, they followed in the footsteps of Christ who sacrificed His life for all His children.
Yet the question remains. What have we done with this sacrifice for us, this gift handed to us? I look around me and see my grandparents and parents generation, still faithful, still striving to help, share and give, but I do not see their children, I do not see my own generation that came after their children’s and I do not see the generations coming after me. The single most important event around which our faith rests, the resurrection of Christ, does not seem to touch the hearts or minds of the present day generations. The gift offered is no longer understood or valued. The attitude of what’s in it for me, or what do I get out of it or I’m just coming to make my parents happy seems to permeate present day hearts and minds. Doesn’t “it” mean anything? And by “it” I am referring not just to the building, or the practice, the tradition, but to the faith. Does this faith of our parents belong simply to our parents? What is our faith? Is it our jobs, our houses, cottages, kids, families, vacations, hobbies, sports, movies, parties, politics, cell phones, having a good time, working out in the gym, the newest fad diet, the newest fad in clothes, the latest cause? Do we care to find out? Or is “to have”, and “to be” more important in our lives than to know God, to have Him at the centre of our lives from whom all of what we are, who we are, is found in Him who is all. When we stand still and turn off our phones, computers, and TVs, stop running from place to place, stop trying to keep up with the pace we have set for ourselves, simply stop, quiet our minds and enter this church, we are faced with a Truth, whether we want to accept it or not (yet why not accept it?). This Truth is God’s love, His love revealed through the death and resurrection of His son Jesus who offers us hope, a joyous hope when we ourselves face death at the end of our lives. Is it our fear that keeps us running? Has God not shown us that there is nothing to fear through Christ’s resurrection? Did not the late great John Paul II say to the multitudes: “Do not be afraid”? Easter, the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, assures us that there is nothing to fear. In following Christ’s footsteps, believing in God’s love, we too can find the everlasting joy we run after each day of our lives.


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