Message from Fr Constantine, March - April 2021
Rejoice!: Fr. Constantine's Message
Dearly Beloved in the Lord,
It is with deep joy that I write to you. Though we continue our isolation and separateness in the midst of the pandemic, I rejoice that we have such ample opportunity to call out to Christ for His Mercy and Love: "Through the cross, joy has come to the whole world" (Sunday Matins/Orthros). But how can anyone speak this way without sounding callous or inconsiderate? "What?!" How dare he say to rejoice! I've been home for nearly a year; lonely, depressed, and mentally stagnating. How can I possibly rejoice?"
Truly, the joy I refer to is not to be equated with "happiness": an emotional state which, although important, comes and goes. Rather, it is this deep, abiding joy that our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ speaks about in the Holy Gospels:
"Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”.
As we well know, our Lord suffered immeasurably, voluntarily dying on the cross out of love for us. How then could he refer to joy in the midst of this sorrow? Herein lies the "secret" of Great and Holy Lent. Lent aids the Orthodox Christian in entering into the voluntary suffering AND Life Giving Resurrection of the God/Man, Jesus Christ.
I defer to the Work, "Great Lent: Journey to Pascha" (pp11-12) by the Famous Rev. Fr. Alexander Schmemann (+1983), who better explains:
When a man leaves on a journey, he must know where he is going. Thus with Lent. Above all, Lent is a spiritual journey and its destination is Easter, "the Feast of Feasts." It is the preparation for the "fulfillment of Pascha, the true Revelation." We must begin, therefore, by trying to understand this connection between Lent and Easter, for it reveals something very essential, very crucial about our Christian faith and life.
Is it necessary to explain that Easter is much more than one of the feasts, more than a yearly commemoration of a past event? Anyone who has...taken part in that night which is "brighter than the day," who has tasted of that unique joy, knows it. But what is that joy about? Why can we sing, as we do during the Paschal liturgy: "today are all things filled with light, heaven and earth and places under the earth"? In what sense do we celebrate, as we claim we do, "the death of Death, the annihilation of Hell, the beginning of a new and everlasting life..."? To all these questions, the answer is: the new life which almost two thousand years ago shone forth from the grave, has been given to us, to all those who believe in Christ.
And it was given to us on the day of our Baptism, in which, as St. Paul says, we "were buried with Christ . . . unto death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead we also may walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). Thus on Easter we celebrate Christ's Resurrection as something that happened and still happens to us. For each one of us received the gift of that new life and the power to accept it and to live by it. It is a gift which radically alters our attitude toward everything in this world, including death.
It makes it possible for us joyfully to affirm: "Death is no more!" Oh, death is still there, to be sure, and we still face it and someday it will come and take us. But it is our whole faith that by His own death Christ changed the very nature of death, made it a passage— "passover," a "Pascha"—into the Kingdom of God, transforming the tragedy of tragedies into the ultimate victory. "Trampling down death by death," He made us partakers of His Resurrection. This is why at the end of the Paschal Matins we say: "Christ is risen and life reigneth! Christ is risen and not one dead remains in the grave!"
May we make a good beginning this Lenten Season, asking God to bless our intentions and our efforts! May we endure the race of Lent, and receive a crown of victory at that midnight Paschal service, where we proclaim His victory over all death: His death, and our own!
If anyone would like guidance on how to prepare for Great Lent, to make it fruitful in your season of life, please contact me.
With Love in Christ,
Fr. Constantine Trumpower