PASCHA IS NEVER OVER!
Someone recently remarked: “Well, Pascha is over until next year.” Indeed, Pascha will certainly come next year, but Pascha can never be over for those who are living in the unending Pascha of Orthodoxy. For every baptized Orthodox Christian becomes a temple of God, who dwells in them through baptism and chrismation. In baptism we all died to sin and put on Christ as a garment. Hence we sing with St. Paul: “As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia.” In baptism, the old man of sin is drowned in the baptismal waters, and when we came up out of the waters, we died as the old Adam and arose with the resurrected Christ.
Having Christ dwelling in us, we become the temple of God, and having been washed and made clean, we were then sealed with the gift of Holy Spirit, who abides within us forever if we remain faithful.
Many of us were baptized as infants and so were unaware of the wonderful events which surrounded us when we were baptized into Christ and anointed with holy chrism. The great responsibility concerning the valuable gifts we received, St. Paul mentions in his first epistle to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God; and that the Spirit of God dwells within you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Cor. 3:16-17).
The temple of God is where He dwells, He who is the Creator of heaven and earth, and created us with His own hands. What a noble and glorious thing that we are so greatly honored, so glorified to be the holy temple of God. It is obvious that we are living in Pascha and that Pascha can never end, for Christ who dwells in our temple is our eternal Pascha!
These temples of God are defiled by those who cause divisions and schisms, who commit carnal sins, or any type of self abuse, gluttony, drunkenness, negligence, boredom, egotism, despair, and all the many sins identified in Holy Scripture and indelibly written in our consciences. When attacked by the smallest sins we should quickly repel them, and we need to be watchful, defending the purity of the temple of God which we are.
As the temple of God, we are never alone, whether sick or dying, in prison or held captive, for if we welcome His presence in our souls, we will continually rejoice and be exceedingly glad, knowing that great is our reward in heaven. How can we welcome His presence? By being diligent and staying on watch, by repelling every attack on our temple from the evil one, thus keeping our temples pure. By welcoming Christ to rule our souls, submitting to Him in humility. How do we welcome Christ? We welcome Christ into our holy temples when we show our love for Him, our hope in Him and our dedication to the Father. How do we show Christ that we love Him? He answers:“If you love me keep my commandments.” Even these commandments must be studied by all the temples of God, so as to be of one mind and heart with each other. An example: “A new commandment I give to you that you love each other, even as much as I love you. By this all men will know, that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other.”
We must listen intently to the Lord by digesting His Holy Scriptures, like a spiritual meal every day of our lives. Then we must bear fruit by our words and actions. We must listen to God in Psalms and hymns making melody in our hearts, rejoicing, in the delight of being the temple of God. The present season of Pascha which will last for ever another month as we celebrate singing: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”
Let us take advantage of these wonderful days of Pascha, going to sleep with Christ name in our hearts and on our lips. Then rising each day giving Him thanks for our sleep and the rest which He grants to us. Let us perform all the necessary tasks of this world, working, shopping, repairing, driving, conducting a business, etc. But being the people of God, our hearts and minds should always be Christ-centered, especially with the realization that we are the temples of God whose Spirit dwells in us.
These wonderful things are of no benefit to those who do not realize how extremely important we are, the great honor that has been bestowed upon us, and how different from others we must be, especially not conforming to this world and its desires. Eternal life belongs to those who have grasped it in this life by becoming and living as temples of God. By our words and actions we must be representatives of Christ in the world. We must confess Christ to be kind, merciful, humble as a man, always doing good works but never evil. We must warn others that He will come to judge the living and the dead. He will gather His sheep as the Chief Shepherd, but His enemies will flee from before His face.
Let us always be prepared to witness Christ to all,, and never be ashamed to confess Him before men: “For whoever confesses me before men, him will I confess before my Father who is in heaven.” When we Orthodox testify to Christ and the truth, even when persecuted, causes great joy in heaven and celebration by the angels who sing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace goodwill among men!” It is the good will of God that we become His holy temple and keep His commandments. As living temples of the Most High God, let us continuously celebrate holy Pascha and look ahead to the joy of everlasting life where there is no sorrow or tears, but joy beyond description!