Over the years I've often felt a bit "guilty" for not getting more excited about Easter. Although one can't entirely isolate the Resurrection of our Savior from His life and death, in many ways it is the day on which all of our hopes are hung. Through it Christ conquered death and gives us the promise of Life. And yet it often seems, for me anyway, a day with little anticipation and not nearly the excitement I think I ought to have at the celebration of such an event!
In the Eastern Orthodox Church the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ is the pinnacle of the Church year. As Erik and I have investigated and moved toward Orthodoxy the last two years I've begun to catch a glimpse of what I've been missing in my celebration of Easter, and how I can experience the awe and wonder that I've always felt should be there. Prior to being introduced to Orthodoxy I had only a few fuzzy notions to associate with the word Lent, all of them from a Roman-Catholic-through-a-Protestant-lens perspective. As I've learned and listened and read, something has just recently "clicked" within me. From Orthodoxwiki Lent "is the living symbol of man's entire life which is to be fulfilled in his own resurrection from the dead with Christ. It is a time of renewed devotion: of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is a time of repentance, a real renewal of minds, hearts and deeds in conformity with Christ and his teachings. It is the time, most of all, of return to the great commandments of loving God and neighbors."
I'm beginning to see that going through a period of preparation, of voluntarily denying one's self a few of life's pleasures, of spending more time in prayer and repentance, of allowing a little more of self to die, will afford one a more real celebration of the resurrection! Somehow I've never put it together before- if I want to experience true joy in Christ's life, then I need to experience some death. This is one of the great paradoxes of Christianity- death comes before life! Of course, this is the calling of the the Christian, to die to ourselves and to follow Christ, but the "darkness of Lent is to allow the flame of the Holy Spirit to burn within our hearts until we are led to the brilliance of the Resurrection." (Alexander Schmemann in Great Lent.)
Already the Orthodox Church is in the period leading up to Lent; the last three Sundays have taught us to desire Christ through the story of Zaccheus, to humble ourselves through the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee, and to turn toward God in repentance through the story of the Prodigal Son. This sentence from Great Lent spoke volumes to me regarding repentance: "And the one who is perfectly "at home" in this world, who has never really been wounded by the nostalgic desire for another Reality, will not understand what is repentance." How often I feel that raw wound in myself, that desire for my true Home, and yet I fail to repent of sins that separate me from God's perfect rest.
I'm excited to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ this year. My flesh is not excited about being denied anything that it's used to having. But I want the fullness of what God has for me; I want to experience the joy of Life and Christ's victory over death!