What is our faith but love for God?

What is our faith but love for God?

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My daughter sang. Her voice was sweeter than honey, and a woman next to me smiled. After a time, my daughter grew pensive and snuggled against me. “I scared,” she said. I asked her why, told her there was nothing to be afraid of, but she insisted staring forward at the crucified Christ beside the iconostasis before the altar.

“Eeew, bug,” she said, pointing at the nailhead that appeared on the top of Christ’s feet.

Even a two-year-old could see the ugliness of death, the terror of crucifixion, the hell that was never intended for us, let alone for our Lord. It was there, right before our eyes, and yet, how often I didn’t see it. How often I fail to realize what is truly disgustingly terrifying. To accept my place in sin and darkness is too painful. I would rather deny the reality. Would rather feel better right now, warm my hands with something tangible, fill my belly with something handy. If I never gave over to hope that there was more and engaged a routine of going to the Church where others, stronger, prayed, then it would seem easy enough to deny the Truth altogether—I wouldn’t have experienced it.

What I have chosen to believe and do in this life matters when my time on earth has come to an end. Death seems impossible in the face of Life, as beautiful as the daughter in my arms. It isn’t popular to suggest these ugly truths, but then, how bright the reality that God is against them. If we realize the true ugliness of death, then we must realize the light of life and the need for God. Saying instead that death isn’t so ugly or something to fear is the ultimate lie and the worst way to pull wool over our eyes, making fuzzy what even a two year old can see and tell.

Christians experience the Passion of Christ if they pick up their cross and bear it. One needn’t have holes in the palms of their hands or a gash in the side. The weight of the world presses into one’s flesh and makes real the sacrifice of Love that Christ uniquely calls each one to endure. We are not alone. We are always with our Lord in the trials of this life. We pick up the cross and tremble under the weight of the world, but our vision becomes His own, and we walk forward. To the left, the right, distractions abound. And there is temptation to turn, to listen to the shouts: “Crucify!” — even when spoken by a mere few very early in the morning, as it was with our Lord. It is heavy, and we are worn, how easy it may be to let go, to let down.

The knees buckle with the weight, and it is impossible to carry on. Too weary, my Lord, I am not You. Like air, so sweet and gentle, carried as a babe in its mother’s arms, helped, protected, a warm kiss gives the necessary life. Moving on, going forth, this is all that can be done, there is no choice, and the voices have grown quiet. All is still and soft, like the humid air before a storm. It is gray. The Passion of Christ stops the world that has always been His.

Thump…thump…thump, His heart beats… to be heard. Too much pain to realize that the blood and water gushing from Him is one’s own life. In time, life had seemed one’s own, full of choices. At the end, the choices are washed away. There is only the Lord on the cross. At the burial vigil before Pascha, we hymn the victory of the Lord:

“When You, the Redeemer of all, were placed in a tomb, all hell’s powers quaked in fear. Its bars were broken, its gates were smashed. Its mighty reign was brought to an end, for the dead came forth alive from their tombs, casting off their captivity. Adam was filled with joy. He gratefully cried out to You, O Christ: Glory to Your condescension, O Lover of mankind.”

God’s love is not an idea, expression, point of view, or religion. The distractions of life busy us so that we do not often feel the bittersweet fullness of God’s love, which is usually more than one can bear. The Pascha of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is “Christ is Risen!” and the trampling down of death and illness, of all evil and corruption that numbs us to Love. We don’t always feel this, but like the fact of death in this world is the fact of life in the next.

The body of Christ spans the whole world, and in the power of the faithful, we may close our eyes and listen to the chorus of love that we are too weak to sing in a given moment. We may doubt the reality of Pascha, but we awaken to a bright morning radiant with sunshine and birds chirping in trees beginning to bud. The order of the universe shows us something the heart intuits as faith, despite the distraction of dishes, and breakfast, and a full house. There is natural order and harmony, and the Liturgy of Truth unfolds always, even outside of a church where one’s own needy children whimper and distract. Friends’ voice the greeting: “Christ is Risen!” Indeed…. Each life is a vital part of nature, a body that builds the Body and reveals the Spirit from ages to ages, Amen.

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About author
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Lea Povozhaev

Lea Povozhaev earned a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition from Kent State University in 2014 and an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Akron in 2007. She spent a semester abroad in Russia studying at Nizhni Novgorod State University in 1999, where she was first introduced to Orthodox Christianity. Lea teaches writing part-time as she focuses on writing and presenting her current research on wholeness of body and soul. Two of her recent works reflect the culmination of her writing pursuits as a creative non-fiction writer who believes in merging reflection on one's personal life with current social events. She recently (June 3, 2016) had an interview with Ancient Faith Radio on her memoir: check it out! Lea aims to continue writing, researching, and presenting and invites inquiries from the audience to share her work ranging from academic (Medical Rhetoric—arguments in current health care and their implications for those who value the sanctity of life), creative and personal (focusing on family life and Orthodoxy). She lives in Ohio with her husband and their five children. Read more about Lea and her work here.