Pascha and the Transcendence of Time
We are creatures of linear time, always moving forward, only glancing back imperfectly at the past. We dream of traveling at will along our timeline. Whether it is Superman reversing the spin of the earth, the Enterprise creating slingshot effect around the sun, wormholes intersecting with solar flares or the time vortex contained within a blue box, we have imagined a multitude of ways to visit our past, interfere with theoretical parallel timelines or recreate our future. If only…., we muse. Always the plot line involves changing something in the past or adjusting the present to affect the future, to make it better or worse depending upon whose hands controlled the time machine. Rarely, if ever, has there been a story where something in the present or future has affected the past. That’s because we believe time only flows one way. Are we sure it does?
We live in Chronos time, but there is also time-outside-of-time, Kairos time, God’s time, eternity. What would happen if Kairos intersected with Chronos?
That happened with the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the pivotal point around which all of space and time revolves, a fixed point in time and space, in all of creation.
All of history begins and ends at this point. Christ’s entry into creation caused a ripple effect along linear time, affecting all of the past and the future. Think of a pebble dropped into the middle of a still pond.
All so-called pre-incarnate theophanies of God in the Old Testament are actually Christ, the second person of the Trinity. All the world’s stories and myths concerning resurrected gods are just remembrances of the resurrected Christ. All hints, all Old Testament prophecies and all foreshadowing relayed prior to the birth of Christ had actually been fulfilled at the time they were given. Christ’s resurrection affected the past, present and future of all people everywhere.
When the Orthodox celebrate Pascha, the Orthodox Easter, we experience a taste of eternity. Time has no meaning for us during the services. We enter into God’s time and worship with the angels and the saints who are with God. Pascha becomes a touchstone for all of our lives. We experience Pascha with Christ.
As Protestants, my family tried many things to make Easter more meaningful, for us and others—Easter pageants, passion plays, sunrise services. No no matter what we did, the effect was little more than a well-planned party and lasted about as long.
After our first Pascha as Orthodox Christians, we realized we had never before celebrated Easter. At Pascha, we had the sensation of joining with the apostles and Christ’s friends crying at his crucifixion, mourning at His burial, celebrating His Resurrection. Every Pascha since, we’ve relived these events—the fixed point in time skewers the our linear time as it spirals towards eternity, allowing eternity to bleed through.
Pascha is the time when God sanctified all of creation by becoming fully man, allowing man to re-unite with God. “God became man so man could become god” says St. Athanasius. When Adam sinned, God in his mercy, took away eternal life so mankind would not forever be separated from God. Christ’s death and resurrection took away the power of death, enabling mankind to be restored into God’s presence. We taste that presence every Pascha.
Pascha gives us the chance to be blind to the differences that set people apart. It clears our eyes to be able to recognize the image of God in every single person who has ever been born and fills us with the strength to treat each person as we would God.
Pascha is the eye in the storm of life swirling around us, a place of calm where we meet eternity, where time stands still, a breathing space allowing us to catch our breath before entering the fray once again.
Pascha is eternal life… for now.
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