Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Christ is Risen! Христосъ воскресе!

In the Eastern Orthodox Churches, today is Pascha – the Feast of the Resurrection of Christ, or as some would say, “Eastern Easter.” The setting of the date of Easter/Pascha depends on the calendar, spring equinox, the lunar cycle, and other rules (click for an article with the detailed background). The Western Churches like the Catholic and Protestant churches that grew out of them use the Gregorian Calendar to set the date of Easter, whereas the Orthodox Churches continue to use the calendar that was in use at the time of Christ, the Julian Calendar, to determine Pascha. There is currently a 13 day difference between the two, so while in some years they end up on the same day, in most years Pacha occurs 1, 4, or five weeks later than Easter.

During the time between Pascha and Ascension, Orthodox Christians traditionally use the greeting “Christ is Risen!” (in Greek, Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!/Christos Anesti, or in Russian, Христосъ воскресе!/Christos Voskrese), the response is “Truly he has Risen (Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!/Alethos Anesti, Воистину воскресе!/Voistinu Voskrese).

Although a small and often ignored minority in the US, Eastern Orthodox Christianity is at least one third of the total number of Christians worldwide. The Orthodox Churches are those churches who trace their liturgy, practices, and lines of succession continuously back to the Apostles. While often identified by the language and original ethnicity of the parish, such as Greek, Russian, Antoichian, and so forth, they share common beliefs and services with minor differences. So the Sunday Divine Liturgy may be celebrated in Greek, Russian, Arabic, English or, as is so common here in the US, a mixture of the original language of the immigrants who started the church and English, they are in all the important ways the same. While in the past unified by a common set of beliefs, in the last few years there have been some unfortunate divisions creeping into the Eastern Churches, especially between Greek and Slavic churches, as various political powers try to manipulate them for their own purposes and heirarchs more concerned with worldly influence and conformity than the heavenly kingdom accept (and profit from) that interference. Yet the faith remains – carried on in family homes, small village parishes, and remote monasteries, shepherded by those clergy who remain faithful to tradition and keep their focus on eternity …

Icon of the Myrrh Bearers finding the empty tomb, with the Angel greeting them with the words
Why do you seek the Living among the Dead?

Because the culture of Christianity in the US is largely based on Protestantism and the different worldviews between the Catholic and Protestant denominations (now colored by such arguably orthogonal groups as “Prosperity Gospel” megachurches, Mormonism, etc.) few here have an appreciation of Orthodoxy, and often see it as some kind of ethnic or Primitive Christianity, “Catholic without the Pope” or “Catholic with an Eastern Pope.” None of these perspectives is accurate. There are very fundamental differences in theology between the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity. Probably the most basic difference is that Western Christianity tends to have its roots in a more legalistic theology whereas the Eastern Churches have a more mystical approach. That is not to say it is without serious reason and logic behind it – but rather (in my view) a more balanced view of the limits of human knowledge without, as some Protestant sects do, rejecting reason.

The human experience is a complex interplay of reason, logic, faith, and emotion. Theology and religion are fascinating topics, and while sadly often the source of conflict, they form a rich tapestry that should bring us together. As the evening gatha said in Zen Buddhist monasteries goes:

Let me respectfully remind you … life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by, and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken … Take heed. Do not squander your life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s