Las Pascuas Navideñas

Las Pascuas Navideñas

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In Spanish, Christmas can be referred to in a couple of ways. We have all heard José Feliciano singing “Feliz Navidad.” But, it can also be referred to as “Las Pascuas Navideñas,” which can mean either Christmas Day or the Christmas Season or “La Pascua de Navidad” which is only Christmas Day. In fact, the word “Pascua” is used for several holy days. “La Pascua de los Judíos” is Passover. “La Pascua Florida” or “La Pascua de Resurrección” is Pascha, Easter Sunday. Less often it is used as “La Pascua de Pentecostés” or “La Pascua de Epifanía,” which refers to Pentecost and Epiphany. So what is “Pascua” and why do I bring this up?

The word “Pascua” comes from the Hebrew root “pesach,” the word we know in English as “Passover.” We get it from the Latin “pascha.” The “h” became an “u” because in Spanish the “ch” is pronounced very different from the way it is in Latin. But, that is a bit of trivia. The more important point is that Latinos see the events that took place on a Passover slightly over 2,000 years ago as being so important that we cannot understand other holy days of Our Lord unless we call them “Pascua.”

On that Passover day, “on the night in which He was betrayed He took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”

For Latinos, the Passover of Our Lord Jesus Christ gives us the key to understand all of human history. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for us so that we might have life. His death (and resurrection) gave us eternal life. “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast … .” Jesus is not only our Passover, but also Passover is how we understand all of human history and all feasts of Our Lord. He was sacrificed for us, therefore, we can rejoice and celebrate, and the Eucharist is how we make that celebration real.

“I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible” (Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D. 110]).

“We will necessarily add this also. Proclaiming the death, according to the flesh, of the only-begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, confessing his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, we offer the unbloody sacrifice in the churches, and so go on to the mystical thanksgivings, and are sanctified, having received his holy flesh and the precious blood of Christ the Savior of us all. And not as common flesh do we receive it; God forbid: nor as of a man sanctified and associated with the Word according to the unity of worth, or as having a divine indwelling, but as truly the life-giving and very flesh of the Word himself. For he is the life according to his nature as God, and when he became united to his flesh, he made it also to be life-giving” (Session 1, Council of Ephesus, Letter of Cyril to Nestorius [A.D. 431]).

Christmas, the Nativity, is the feast of the one who would one day die for us and feed us his life. Epiphany is the feast of the revealing of the one who would one day die for us and feed us his life. Pentecost is the feast of the one who died for us and sent the Holy Spirit to actualize that life within us, to change us, to lead us into truth, and feed his life. When “pascuas” refers to a season, it is a season that explains why he chose to die for us, and feed us his life. Are you beginning to see a pattern?

This Christmas become a Latino. Choose to celebrate the season and the day as the day that we celebrate that the one who would die for us came into the world, that the one who would feed us his life chose to become one of us. Yes, in our modern sensibility, this can sound a little odd. But, if you read the Church Fathers, if you look at our theology, it is something we need to celebrate.

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Fr. Ernesto Obregon

I am a Cuban. My sister and I arrived in the United States of America in 1961. I was nine years old at the time and my sister was five. Yes, alone. Our mother, a widow, put us on the plane in La Habana, and we were taken to an orphanage upon our arrival in Miami. No, I never lived in Miami for longer than about six months. Yes, we and our mother were re-united. She escaped from Cuba by boat about four or five months after we arrived in the USA. We were re-united and were sent by the Catholic Welfare folk to Ohio, where they had found my mother a job and us a foster home while she learned English and got situated. So, I grew up in Ohio, had a paper route, learned to build snowmen, and moved from place to place as out mother got better jobs. Eventually she met a good man and re-married and we settled into his house in Mansfield, Ohio. I was a 15-year-old teenager.

Needless to say, none of this was necessarily guaranteed to keep me strong in the faith, although my mother tried. I rebelled during my teenage years and left Roman Catholicism for some vague hippie philosophies and a lot of rebellion. By 1970 I had been expelled from college after my first year, a year in which I was very confused and quite directionless. When I returned to Mansfield in defeat, I was approached by a friend who had become a “Jesus Person.” He took me to this “farm” that was filled with about four middle-aged adults and lots of early 20′s Jesus People. One of those adults was a Southern Baptist pastor, a former Campus Crusade staffer, and uncomfortable supervisor of hippy Jesus People, and is now the Very Rev. Gordon Walker, an Archpriest of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese. His story, along with others whom I know, is chronicled in the book, “Becoming Orthodox” by the Very Rev. Peter Gillquist.

My journey was different. I eventually ended up as an Anglican priest, and a missionary. My wife and I served in both Bolivia and Perú, and our three intelligent and very perspicacious daughters spent a decade of their formative years in South America. I ended up as The Archdeacon of Arequipa of the Anglican Church of Perú, which is part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, which is part of the Anglican Communion.

We returned to the USA when our children began to attend college, and I took a parish in one of the dioceses of The Episcopal Church. Within less than four years, we realized that this was not a Church in which I could doctrinally live.

It was at this point that Fr. Gordon Walker came actively back into my life and told me that it was time that I came into Orthodoxy. He was right, and I have been Orthodox ever since. I was ordained in the Antiochian Orthodox jurisdiction, but am currently serving as an attached priest at a Greek Orthodox Church. God has blessed us. We have wonderful grandchildren. And we are truly blessed.