April 26, 2008

Pascha or Easter

On twitter, I'm tracking both "Easter" and "Pascha", and this morning I tweeted that I'm seeing more people refer to "Easter" than "Pascha". Someone pointed out that in her parish, the cradle Orthodox said Easter, and adult converts said Pascha, and that got me thinking...

First, maybe a little theology lesson. What the Orthodox call the Dormition of the Theotokos, Roman Catholics (and others?) call Assumption. The difference is that they believe that she was lifted up to Heaven (Assumed to Heaven) while still alive, but Orthodox believe that she died (Dormition). It is an important distinction, theologically. They believe the heresy of original sin, which required the immaculate conception (of Mary), which kept her from dying. So, in their theology, sh e couldn't die, and must have been brought to Heaven while still alive. Orthodox don't believe in original sin. We know that Christ inherited the entirety of our fallen nature. After all, if Mary couldn't have died, and He got His human nature from her, what does that say about the Passion and Resurrection?

The upshot is that there is a big difference between "Assumption" and "Dormition".

Anyway, many years ago, back in California, I saw an Orthodox church named for the "Assumption of the Theotokos", which struck me as odd. Someone explained that when the Russians came to America, they looked at the Roman Catholic names for feasts, and assumed they were the English translation of the names for the feasts (in other words, they thought that if you looked up the Russian word for "Dormition" in a Russian to English dictionary, you would find "Assumption" -- a false assumption if you ask me :).

Now, as for Pascha and Easter. Most languages on earth have, as their word for the feast celebrating our Saviour's Resurrection, some variation of the word "Passover". I could be wrong, but I think only English and German (and possibly some other German-derived languages) have "Easter" as the name of the feast. The word "Easter" comes from a Germanic pagan celebration (that, not coincidentally, includes a pagan deity that takes the form of an egg-laying rabbit).

The fact is, what we celebrate as Orthodox is the Passover. Not the same as the Jewish Passover, but there are parallels. The Jewish Passover was a prefiguring of our Passover. My priest even makes a point to call it Passover (using that as an English translation of Pascha). I'm trying to remember the parallels between ours and the Jewish Passover. I think some are that, when we have the Blood of the Lamb (Christ) on our lips (the door to our soul), that death will pass over us. There are also parallels of the week. The Passover seder was Friday night, so Christ died at the same time as (and mystically was) the sacrificial lamb.

The other reason why I like "Pascha" over "Easter" is it provides a separation of the feasts. Whereas the secular will celebrate Easter with anthropomorphic rabbits and the like, we celebrate Pascha with the Resurrection of our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life!

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February 25, 2007

First Sunday of the Fast: The Sunday of Orthodoxy

For more than one hundred years the Church of Christ was troubled by the persecution of the Iconoclasts of evil belief, beginning in the reign of Leo the Isaurian (717-741) and ending in the reign of Theophilus (829-842). After Theophilus' death, his widow, the Empress Theodora (celebrated Feb. 11), together with the Patriarch Methodius (June 14), established Orthodoxy anew. This ever-memorable Queen venerated the icon of the Mother of God in the presence of the Patriarch Methodius and the other confessors and righteous men, and openly cried out these holy words: "If anyone does not offer relative worship to the holy icons, not adoring them as though they were gods, but venerating them out of love as images of the archetype, let him be anathema." Then with common prayer and fasting during the whole first week of the Forty-day Fast, she asked God's forgiveness for her husband. After this, on the first Sunday of the Fast, she and her son, Michael the Emperor, made a procession with all the clergy and people and restored the holy icons, and again adorned the Church of Christ with them. This is the holy deed that all we the Orthodox commemorate today, and we call this radiant and venerable day the Sunday of Orthodoxy, that is, the triumph of true doctrine over heresy.

Dismissal Hymn, Second Tone

We worship Thine immaculate icon, O Good One, asking the forgiveness of our failings, O Christ our God; for of Thine own will Thou wast well-pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh, that Thou mightest deliver from slavery to the enemy those whom Thou hadst fashioned. Wherefore, we cry to Thee thankfully: Thou didst fill all things with joy, O our Saviour, when Thou camest to save the world.

Kontakion. Plagal of Fourth Tone

The undepictable Word of the Father became depictable when He took flesh of thee, O Theotokos; and when He had restored the defiled image to its ancient state, He suffused it with divine beauty. As for us, confessing our salvation, we record it in deed and word.

Icon and Text Copyright Holy Transfiguration Monastery

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April 06, 2005

Annunciation to the Theotokos

March 25 / April 7, Annunciation to the Theotokos

Dismissal Hymn

Today is the fountainhead of our salvation and the manifestation of the mystery which was from eternity. The Son of God becometh the Virgin's Son and Gabriel announceth the good tidings of grace; for this cause, let us cry to the Mother of God with him: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

Kontakion. The Original Melody

When the bodiless one learned the secret command, in haste he came and stood before Joseph's dwelling, and spake unto the Maiden who knew not wedlock: The One Who hath bowed the Heavens by His descent is held and contained unchanging wholly in thee. Seeing Him receiving the form of a servant in thy womb, I stand in awe and cry to thee: Rejoice, thou Bride unwedded.

Icon courtesy of Holy Transfiguration Monastery

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April 02, 2005

Sunday of the Cross

Save, O Lord, Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance. Grant Thou unto the faithful victory over adversaries, and by the power of Thy Cross, do Thou preserve Thy commonwealth.
-- Troparion for the third Sunday of Great Lent, the Sunday of the Cross.

On a personal note, it was 10 years ago today (this Sunday in Lent) that I was baptised.


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March 27, 2005

Food For Thought on the Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas

It was love of human honour that distanced the Pharisees from faith in the Lord, which is why He said to them, "How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" (Jn. 5:44). Others were prevented from drawing near by lands, weddings, or worries about the affairs of this life (Lk. 14:18-20), but the paralysed man's physical weakness put an end to such things and removed them from his thoughts. There are times when illness is better for sinners than good health, because it helps them towards salvation and blunts their inborn evil impulses.

The Homilies of St. Gregory Palamas, Vol. I, On the Second Sunday of Great Lent.

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