Our Lord has assured us – His people in numerous ways throughout the history of the world that He is with us always … to the very close of the age! Our Holy Church has instilled in every one of us the conviction that following the ultimate pain and sacrifice of Holy Friday, we are called to enter into the joy not of this world in Our Lord’s Glorious Resurrection. I begin with this thought because I / we really need to get this Paschal issue of the Visnyk off to press, and from the office where I now minister … “we” are most certainly in the world, and are encountering the all too numerous “ways of the world,” to which your Office of the Consistory is called to respond in ways that are prudent, “good governance,” “best practices,” and above all else – God-pleasing and Holy and most beneficial to the whole of the UOCC. As a result, though – the following message will be an only slightly edited and revised message of the “chancellor’s” message of Pascha 2016.
“This IS the day which the Lord has made – let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
This beautiful verse from the Psalms is one of the verses that the priest proclaims while the first multiple singing of the glorious Paschal tropar: “Khrystos Voskres” is being sung at the closed doors to the life-giving tomb about to be opened. (The doors to enter the church on Pascha morning.)
As I was growing up, I learned that while we are proclaiming this verse, and singing “Khrystos Voskres” (in our particular time zones, in Canada,) our Brothers and Sisters in the faith in the Far East have already concluded the festive celebrations of the first day of Pascha. Particularly moving for me though was how I would be reminded in the mid to late afternoon (in Canada,) on Holy Saturday that our family, and our Brothers and Sisters in Ukraine were already proclaiming “Khrystos Voskres,” and this even during the darkest periods of the Soviet Union’s existence.
Our Church Fathers have taught that if one wishes to be saved, then we are to live each day as though Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was crucified yesterday, has risen from the dead today, and will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, tomorrow. Holy Week, and its ultimate conclusion – “Khrystos Voskres!” – Christ is Risen! Is our annual opportunity to be strengthened in our resolve to live each and every day and moment of our lives – proclaiming each day as the day the Lord has made, and praying that we rejoice and be glad in it.
There is another much more subtle aspect to Holy Week and Pascha – and one that applies most directly to our lives, work and service in the Church and in all of God’s Holy Creation beyond the Church. This is the on-going call to and for us as individuals, as members of our families, as members of our communities-parishes-hromady, to “obozhennya” – theosis. To be transformed – transfigured or in other words, to be changed by God’s grace to become what God is by nature – Holy.
How does this happen?
First, we are called to pray that it happen. This means that we are called to seek that it happen, and that it happen in our lives, as individuals. We resolve to go to church, and earnestly pray while there to be transfigured as individuals. And – we pray that we be open to having our hearts, souls and minds be transformed. In this way, we identify with the Myrhh-bearing women who encounter an angel questioning them as to why they are seeking the living among the dead. These women were forever transformed – let us pray for the same for every one of us!
Second, we bear in mind that God is always at work in our lives – calling us to this transformation – transfiguration. That said, it is not up to any of us to determine God’s time-table for each of us, and it certainly is not up to us to determine God’s time-table for any of our loved ones, or any of our Brothers and Sisters about us. In other words, we do our very best, and acknowledge – as the original Apostles did, that while we may falter, have doubts and not see our Risen Lord, He always provides the power to help us see Him, and see Him in ourselves and in one another.
Third, we celebrate Pascha (Easter,) every day by remembering what we sing … “Rejoice all you people of God, may there be no anger in our midst, may the love from God flower pure, sincere, like a blossoming rose, because this love has come from Heaven,” – in other words let us be reminded that “the other” is doing their best, as are we…
Fourth, we go out with the proclamation that “Khrystos Voskres!” – “Christ is Risen!” I invite us all to greet one another, and to greet those around us with this joyous proclamation. To those whom we encounter who may be unfamiliar with this greeting, let us not be afraid to offer this joyous proclamation and a gentle explanation as to what it means to and for us.
And fifth, we resolve on the occasion of Pascha – to honour those who have preserved and passed the faith down to us, and to our present day – our families and fellow members of our beloved, sacred and dear to all of us – our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. I firmly believe – as Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ changed the world, in and through the events of Holy Week, and His Glorious Resurrection – so he has the power to and can and will transform us all – the sons and daughters of our beloved UOCC, and the “organization” that we cherish as that means for us to be transfigured on this “Feast of all Feasts.”
Khrystos Voskres! Voistynu Voskres!
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
– Fr. Taras Udod, Chancellor of the UOCC and Dobr. Sonia Udod