Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eastertide Continues: "On Pascha"

Some of my Protestant and Evangelical friends may be a bit kerflummoxed that Easter is still be celebrated by many Christians around the world. As you can see by the little poster in my sidebar, provided by, Easter Is 50 Days. How can we thoroughly rejoice in the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour in a single day? Yes, the joy of the Resurrection should be celebrated every single day of the year and for the remainder of our lives, both earthly and heavenly, but the Resurrection should be especially remembered for the fifty days following Easter Sunday. In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to celebrate certain feasts for days (and even weeks) on end. Thus the fifty day celebration of the Resurrection follows in that tradition, starting on Easter Sunday and proceeding through Ascension Day (40 days after Easter Sunday) to Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, the Jewish holy day in which the Holy Spirit descended upon the followers of Christ. The "Comforter" that Jesus had promised had arrived and remains with us still until Jesus returns to earth, a promise of eternal life for us in the present.

Pascha, the word for Eastertide still in use by Eastern Christians, was celebrated very early in the history of the church. Following is a poem written by an early Christian, Melito of Sardis who died in 180 A.D., that celebrates the Paschal Season. I discovered this while on Twitter (of all places) after I decided to follow "Twiturgy" which took me to the blog of the Asbury Theological Seminary. And there I discovered and read the poem "On Pascha":

"On Pascha" - Melito of Sardis (2nd Century)

This is the one who comes from heaven onto
the earth for us suffering ones,
and wraps himself in the suffering one
through a virgin womb
and comes as a human.
He accepted the suffering of us suffering ones,
through suffering in a body which could suffer,
and set free the flesh from suffering.
Through the spirit which cannot die
he slew the human-slayer death.

He is the one led like a lamb
and slaughtered like a sheep;
He ransomed us from the worship of the world
as from the land of Egypt,
and He set us free from the slavery of the devil
as from the hand of Pharaoh,
and sealed our souls with His own spirit,
and the members of our body with His blood.

This is the one who clad death in shame
and, as Moses did to Pharaoh,
made the devil grieve.
This is the one who struck down lawlessness
and made injustice childless,
as Moses did in Egypt,
This is the one delivered us from slavery to freedom,
from darkness into light,
from death into life,
from tyranny into an eternal Kingdom,
and made us a new priesthood,
and a people everlasting for himself.

This is the Pascha of our salvation:
this is the one who in many people endured many things.
This is the one who was murdered in Abel,
tied up in Isaac,
exiled in Jacob,
sold in Joseph,
exposed in Moses,
slaughtered in the lamb,
hunted down in David,
dishonored in the prophets.

This is the one made flesh in a virgin
who was hanged on a tree
who was buried in the earth,
who was raised from the dead,
who was exalted to the heights of heaven.

This is the lamb slain,
this is the speechless lamb,
this is the one born of Mary the fair ewe,
this is the one taken from the flock,
and led to slaughter.
Who was sacrificed in the evening,
and buried at night;
who was not broken on the tree;
who was not undone in the earth,
who rose from the dead and resurrected humankind from the grave below.

O mystifying murder! O mystifying injustice!
The master is obscured by his body exposed,
and is not held worth of a veil to shield him from view.
For this reason the great lights turned away,
and the day was turned to darkness;
to hide the one denuded on the tree,
obscuring not the body of the Lord but human eyes.

For when the people did not tremble, the earth shook.
When the people did not fear, the heavens were afraid.
When the people did not rend their garments, the angel rent his own.
When the people did not lament, the Lord thundered from heaven,
and the most high gave voice.

"Who takes issue with me? Let him stand before me.
I set free the condemned.
I gave life to the dead.
I raise up the entombed.
Who will contradict me?

"It is I," says the Christ,
"I am he who destroys death
and triumphs over the enemy,
and crushes Hades,
and binds the strong man,
and bears humanity off to the heavenly heights."
The Feast of the Ascension is coming up this Thursday, May 21, and Pentecost on Sunday, May 31. I will be remembering these dates here on my blog, but also I suggest taking time yourself to ponder the significance of what Christ has done for you and for every human who has ever taken breath on this earth and will in the future. The rest of our lives is not long enough to celebrate the everlasting joys of Christ's Resurrection, but taking the fifty days after Easter Sunday to do so is hardly a poor idea.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin