Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti! Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! Following the long journey of Great Lent, we finally reach the celebration of Pascha, Easter. Pascha is a time for church and family.
Celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Anastasi is a much bigger holiday in the Orthodox Christian tradition than even Christmas. The days of preparation; the strict fasting of Great Lent; the many, beautiful church services leading up to the holiday; bringing home the Holy Light to bless our homes – all these add a special quality that cannot quite be explained to those who have not experienced it.
The food is also a major part of the celebration. Inextricably linked with the church-going is the dyeing of red eggs on Holy Thursday and the tremendous amount of cooking and baking leading up to the feast on Easter Sunday. The baking of lazarakia, koulourakia, tyropites, and flaounes brings families together to experience the traditions and recipes that have been passed down through the generations and connect us with our roots. The traditions also remind us of loved ones who are no longer with us, who we know – through the Resurrection of Jesus and the trampling down of death – are only asleep. During these difficult times for so many people, when we hear about continuing crises, families divided, the persecution of Christians, and ongoing wars, it is important to remember the less fortunate and to pray for peace in world.
The terrible terrorist attack on the Christians celebrating Easter in Sri Lanka, which left hundreds dead, is a potent reminder that there is still evil in the world, that there are groups targeting people on a religious holiday when they gather with their families to attend services, all ages together.
It would be easy to lose faith at such a moment, but it is vital in these times to remain steadfast and remember that love is the basis of faith. It would be easier not to believe, not to forgive, not to embrace the teachings of Christ, not to love our neighbors, and not to turn the other cheek, but then the forces of darkness would have won anyway.
We should ask ourselves, do we really want to live in a world where people are afraid to practice their religion, whatever it may be?
Freedom of religion is something we take for granted here in the United States, but there are many places around the world where people suffer unspeakably for their faith and where the freedom of religion doesn’t exist at all or if it did at one time, it is being gradually worn away by extremist views. It is especially vital in these times to stay informed about the world around us, and not imagine that because we have certain freedoms that everyone values and respects those same freedoms everywhere.
The true meaning of Pascha, the basis of the Christian faith, the defeat of death and darkness by the light of faith in Jesus Christ fills the season with hope and spirituality as no other time of year.
While we send our thoughts and prayers to those suffering loss and heartbreak in the face of tragedy, we must also take an active role as Christians and stand up for the voiceless people everywhere living under oppression of all kinds.
We wish everyone Kali Anastasi, Kalo Pascha, and Happy Easter!