The Mystery of Pascha – Expanded

I have, on occasion, edited and reissued a post – though not as quickly as this one. My post from earlier this week seemed to want a few more words – something to draw the reader closer to the mystery itself. I offer this small addition and pray it is of some use.

In his Revelation, St. John describes Christ as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (13:8). It is one of many interesting statements within that book of images and wonders. However, his description of Christ has much to say about the mystery ofPascha (Christ’s resurrection).

First, it is clear that Pascha is more than a historical event. It is certainly includes the historical death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But statements such as St. John’s point to the fact that Pascha is also an event in which that which is outside of time intersects time. For this reason the celebration of Pascha is never simply a celebration of something that happened long ago. The event that happened long ago is also the event that happened before there was a creation and the event that will be the culmination of everything in the End.

This is the very heart of the Orthodox Christian understanding of the life of the Church. Christ’s Pascha is our very life. It is present to us at every moment and is the source of our life and the truth of our existence. We believe that especially when the Church gathers together for worship, we stand in Christ’s Pascha. Heaven and earth meet and we are united with God in the feast of His Body and Blood. Heaven and earth meet; present, past and future meet with that which is beyond time. The created meets the Uncreated.

Within the Pascha of Christ is the meaning and fulfillment of all things. Much of modern Christianity has married itself to the secular world’s linear view of history. In such a context, Pascha begins to fade into a memorial of the past, or, worse still, an annual culture event.

Of course, it is impossible for such a festival not to have a cultural context – human beings produce cultures. However, we should understand that it is not the culture that gives meaning to Pascha – but Pascha which gives meaning to a culture.

In the 12th Chapter of Exodus, Passover or Pascha, is described as an “eternal festival.” The statement can be taken simply to mean that it is a feast that should always be observed. But it can also be taken to mean that the feast that is Pascha is an eternal matter, that its celebration is more than historical remembrance – it is a participation in the eternal Pascha of Christ.

St. Paul hints at this aspect of Christ’s Pascha:

For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthian 5:7-8)

Here St. Paul is not speaking of a particular feast day, but of the entire Christian life as the Pascha of Christ. Christ has become our Pascha – our way into life out of the bondage of death. Therefore, he says, we should keep this feast of the Christian life not with malice and wickedness – which St. Paul compares to “old leaven” or “old yeast” – meaning our old way of life. Rather, he says that our daily Christian Pascha should be with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Truth plays a very important role in the life of our daily Pascha. Part of the nature of the life given to us in Christ – is that it is truelife. To live a false life, or to speak in a way that is not true – is to have turned ourselves away from Christ, who is the Truth, and from His life, which is our true, authentic existence.

Speaking the truth is a manifestation of Pascha on our lips.

The same can be said of sincerity. To be truly who we are with others – not to lead a life of dissimulation or deceit – such things are the very nature of true life. The deceitfulness of modern existence is a denial of true existence. It raises that which is not to the level of that which is. Life becomes a living hell. Pascha has come to set us free from all of that.

At the End of all things only the truth will remain. Things that were part of the deceit of this world will have passed away. At the End of things there is Pascha. Everything and everyone will find its meaning there – which is fitting since Pascha was before all things.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





17 responses to “The Mystery of Pascha – Expanded”

  1. Susan Cushman Avatar

    “… the entire Christian life as the Pascha of Christ.” I love that. Christ is Risen!

  2. Ioannis Avatar

    The best medicine sometimes comes not with a first dose, but with the second. This entry is great medicine about truth and sincerity in response to the change that Pascha created in and among us.

  3. Micah Avatar

    At the End of all things only the truth will remain. At the End of things there is Pascha. Christ’s Pascha is our life!

  4. Jeremiah Avatar

    I love that statement about our daily life being Pascha. Whether in worship at liturgy, matins or vespers, or even doing our “mundane” tasks, we live in Pascha. I think this goes along with your reflections on Redeeming The Time, living every moment in prayer, remembering God and remembering Christ’s Pascha.
    Someone pointed out to me the fact that the iconostasis is a picture of our salvation. The Theotokos with Christ represent His Nativity. The Pontocrator on the right represents His Second Coming. In the middle is where we, His Church, celebrate the Eucharist, the Mystical Pascha.
    That picture helped me to see my prayer corner as a picture of salvation. With the Cross in between and above the two icons of Christ’s Nativity and Glory, it is a reminder to me that His Cross led to Pascha. My prayer times have filled with more wonder, as I gaze upon the representations of His Salvation.
    Maybe I have it wrong. Perhaps you could clarify my thoughts on the subject. At any rate, a wonderful addition to an already powerful reflection on Pascha.
    Christos Anesti!!

  5. Jamie Avatar

    Thank you Father Stephen. You’re blog has been a great benefit for me.

    My wife and I are new members to the Episcopal Church. We come from very Protestant traditions and we were drawn by the liturgy among other things. We have slowly transitioned from a very dualistic view of the universe and from our southeastern, fundamentalist, worldview.

    But as you know there is much heartbreak going on in the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church. Please pray for me.

  6. coffeezombie Avatar

    “The same can be said of sincerity. To be truly who we are with others – not to lead a life of dissimulation or deceit – such things are the very nature of true life.”

    I think that, perhaps, the hardest aspect of this is not so much living a life of sincerity with others, but living a life of sincerity with myself.

  7. Micah Avatar

    How true. The connection between sincerity and truth is absolutely pivotal. There can be no sincerity without truth.

    But of course, Truth is a Person and this changes the meaning of how we even perceive truth and ourselves. Relativism ends when it is intersected by Truth.

    Christ is Risen!

  8. Barbara Avatar

    Dear Fr. Stephen,

    Christ is Risen!

    I think I understand what you are meaning when you talk about the importance of sincerity and to be truly who we are with others. Who we are truly is the image of God. But I think that in our culture, we often twist those words, making them an excuse for being our sinful selves, to let our egos dominate because we want to be “true to ourselves”. It is almost of way of shrugging our shoulders when we do things that are hurtful or even misguided. We simply say, “Oh well, that’s who I am…” I would say that to be truly who I am I have to say keep my ego heavily guarded and often deny it.

    Can you speak more about what you mean by being sincerely and truthfully ourselves?

  9. fatherstephen Avatar

    This earlier post on the truth of our selves might serve to answer your question – good question.

  10. Anam Cara Avatar
    Anam Cara

    Micah Says:
    April 9, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    At the End of all things only the truth will remain. At the End of things there is Pascha. Christ’s Pascha is our life!

    Might I humbly suggest that one other thing will also remain – love.

  11. Micah Avatar

    Anam Cara,

    God is eternal love. I know of no other Gospel but the love of God.


  12. Micah Avatar

    You make a very good point Anam Cara — all creation finds it’s meaning in God’s perfect love for all — but the word “love” is often misrepresented in modernity.

    Like Truth, Love is the Person of Christ, brought to you, me and all through His glorious Pascha — the event which defines everything else and which intersects all time.

    Christ is Risen!

  13. fatherstephen Avatar

    Of course, love abides. Pascha is the triumph of God’s love.

  14. Micah Avatar


  15. Micah Avatar

    Dear Father Stephen,

    I well remember Maundy Thursday and the seven visits (as fixtures in a Catholic childhood) but less so the prayers that went with the visits:

    “We adore You O Christ and we bless You, because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world”.

    We stand with one foot in Thursday and one in Sunday, but stand we do!

    What glorious joy to know this, that He is Risen!

  16. Lina Avatar

    I once heard an Italian Roman Catholic priest explain the meaning of the word “sincere.”

    In Italy, the most famous marble quarry, which if I remember correctly is the Carrara quarry, wrote the following on their shipping boxes:
    “Sin cere” (without wax) It seems that some quarries filled the holes in their marble with wax in order to make it look better.

    Basically what Carrara was saying is “What you see is what you get.” We have not covered up anything.

  17. […] does Christ’s resurrection mean to the Orthodox?  Fr. Stephen Freeman writes about it: In his Revelation, St. John describes Christ as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of […]

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