AFTER PASCHA – how do we keep the intense feeling of Lent, after the Resurrection? Or - Living the life of an Apostle
Lent was so filled with beautiful dramatic services, wonderful prayers and hymns, and even the prayer and fasting we do at home. But after Pascha, some people feel let down. This shouldn’t be.
The women who came to the tomb to anoint the body of the dead Jesus were met by a blazingly bright angel who asked them, ‘Why do you seek the Living (One) among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee,.. (Luke 24.5-8) "Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you. (Matthew 28.)"
The women disciples of the Lord, having lived with Him and witnessed His death and resurrection, immediately were SENT by the angel to tell the Good News to the apostles and all the world.
In the Early Church, Lent was the time of preparing catechumens for entry into the Church. This aspect of Great Lent is so important for us as the reminder of our own catechumenate. The catechumens were very important in the life of the Church, not only because they were fresh and new, but also because they were so zealous and energetic about the faith and about being Christians. They rejuvenated the old-timers and encouraged those who were ‘weary in well-doing’ (2 Thessalonians 3:13) or tired from doing charity and good things for others (often a thankless work). They were like the addition of fresh leaven or yeast into the dough – remember that in those early times that meant sourdough and it was possible for your leaven to get old or weak…
One of the post-baptism instructions to the neophytes (Christian newbies) was heard in the Gospel lesson, "Just as the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you" (John 20:21) – thus changing them from students into worker and doers, from servants to co-workers and children of God. But this is also “The Great Commission” which is addressed to ALL Christians, neophytes and elders alike. Great Lent may be the training ground for catechumens, but it’s also the ‘retreat’ for the older Christians. Great Lent is a time for us all to hone our skills as missionaries and workers in the vineyard of Christ – the kingdom of Heaven.
So, what do we ‘veterans’ need to remember about this Great Commission, this Great Command?
First, we need to remember that we are being SENT, and not just asked, or recommended. We are SENT, just as God the Father SENT God the Son. So we are under obedience, as soldiers are under obedience to their commanders. This is not a willy-nilly ‘sending’ but a part of the strategy in the war of good against evil. Not every soldier is on the front line, but every soldier is one who is prepared to face the fight when the need arises. Not every soldier is called to be a foot-soldier, but some are called to be leaders and officers. That means that everyone has a job to do, and no job is more or less important than another.
What else? This sending is not the happiest thing, from the point of view of the non-Christians. That’s because this sending is to labor and service – unpaid and often thankless, to struggle and overcome – unacknowledged, to be hated and despised because of Our Master and devotion to righteousness and goodness, to be unloved, mistreated, unknown, and unsought. It doesn’t appeal to you? It was part of Our Lord’s life – so if we accept the commission, we shouldn’t be surprised at this aspect of it. But none of this matters, because our food and our reward is to do the will of God. All our needs will be taken care of because as God clothes the fields with lilies, as he feeds the birds of the air, as he finds rest for those who have nowhere to lay their heads, so He cares for us. This reward from God is a more beautiful and wonderful and incredible blessing than any praise or reward from men.
Sounds like a tall order? Remember that God sent his only-begotten Son to teach us the most important things about life – to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength and to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves, by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, and by visiting the sick and imprisoned. If we soldiers can do even part of that, we’ll be fed with the Bread of Heaven. But more than that, we are not sent alone – after being taught the basic training by our Lord Jesus Christ, God promised to send and continues to send us His Holy Spirit, to comfort us and to reward us, and to watch over us, to help us learn what’s right (because He is the Spirit of Truth), who is everywhere, and who gives life and blessings. He will come and stay with us, guide us and protect us.
SO, having taken up our cross, and having accepted the command to go and be his apostles and disciples and announce His Good Word to the world, let us rely on God’s Holy Spirit to show each of us the way we should go about accomplishing His great work.
O Lord our God, grant that we may glorify Thee in the manner of Thy Holy Apostles: by prudent reasoning illumined by Thy Holy Spirit, by submitting ourselves to one another in love, and by solicitude for the well-being of Thy Holy Church and for the world which we are given.
Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!