Christ has Risen. Indeed He has Risen.
During the Great Fast (Lent) period, having reflected upon the life of Christ Incarnate, I have appreciated more fully that his lived life as one of us, was not that different to ours.
Christ Incarnate experienced birth, struggles in the life of ever growing, loving, enjoying, rejection, pain, suffering, dying, resurrection – this cycle is continually repeating itself in various ways in our daily lives and also in nature.
- Easter pastoral letter of his Beatitude Sviatoslav
- Message of Patriarch Sviatoslav to Ukrainian youth
- Bishop Peter’s Easter Message
But unlike us, the disappointments, pain and suffering experienced by Christ were held and were not transmitted onto or to others. Christ held and holds it – does not transmit it.
Christ showed empathy for the weak, the downtrodden and the rejected, to whom he was always merciful, loving and forgiving, whilst those who esteemed themselves were not looked upon with favour.
Why would that be so in the One who is Love and loves all and everything?
Love is not about nice sentimental feelings or about ‘I like you because you like me’.
Love is the total, full and complete giving of itself and is itself not diminished in the giving. Love is never taken, only given, and given – to be shared. An example of this is Life, Existence itself.
So, why would love not be given to those who esteem themselves, feeling they are great, above all, lords of everyone and everything, about themselves and nothing else! After all, we are all supposed to be loved by our creator equally!
Fr. Thomas Merton provides a clue, in his reflections “Seeds of Contemplation”, chap. 6, ‘Things in Their Identity’, (p 34-35).
“Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.
This is the man that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy. ….
We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves . . . A life devoted to the cult of this shadow is what is called a life of sin.
All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the uiverse is ordered.
Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real.
And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.
But there is no substance under the things with which I am clothed. I am hollow, and my structure of pleasures and ambitions has no foundation. I am objectified in them. ….
And when they are gone there will be nothing left of me but my own nakedness and emptiness and hollowness, to tell me that I am my own mistake.
The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God”.
Fr. Thomas Merton is basically saying, that in heaven (another word for resurrection) there will not be much of you there.
The ‘you’ that you and others think you are, is not who I the creator know and love.
Any notion that we may have of death, resurrection, heaven, the kingdom, life after death, life everlasting, God, etc., is bound not be so (we argue about words that we have never fully experienced).
We cannot know and love that which we have not experienced.
I myself, an addict to my way of thinking and of being, with much wordly apprehension, sort of look forward to dying (mind you – I am in no hurry). The reason for this seeming morbidness, is that with death, your encouraging prayers and my co-operation with Grace (God), I will learn to be fully selfless becoming whole (resurrected, saved, salvation), discovering who I really am, in Whom I am complete, with the full experience of love and loving. I will be out of my own way.
In true love there is no self.
That which I just wrote, I am unable to imagine nor intellectually understand – why?
Let me try to explain by an example – Life (another word for Love – God) is given fully, yet we seem to be only receiving, that is, experiencing Life partially according to our disposition. As if “Life is something that happens to us while we’re busily engaged in something else. Worse: Life is something that happens to us while we’re busy suffering all sorts of things” (Fr. Anthony De Mello – Rediscovering Life).
Love can only be experienced, which is not to say it is not given. The extent of our experience of love is according to our disposition to receiving it.
Maybe that is why Christ did not bother with those who esteemed themselves. Maybe they were unable to receive the gift of love, because the ‘self’ was in the way.
A gift always remains with the giver if not accepted.
There is a saying along the lines, “Don’t try to teach a pig to sing; It wastes your time and annoys the pig”.
So why don’t you join me in the non-ending, frustrating and seeming futile venture of getting out of your own way – which is part of the aim of fasting, doing without, delaying satisfaction, seeking (buying) only what you need and not what you want, being the least and not the esteemed greatest, reducing the addicted dependency on the drug called “approval” in its various forms.
I warn you – it is a difficult task trying to stop being the General Manager of the Universe, there will be many setbacks, feelings of failure, wondering why, and so on. That little voice just does not stop. But that is ok – just notice them, be aware of them and continue where you left off.
Regain a little of your freedom from those self-imposed illusions that you have become attached to and try to maintain.
If you disagree or have not understood any or all of the above – that is fine – thank you for your perseverence in getting this far and sorry for having burdened you.
At this time of Pascha Easter 2018, I thank you for your support, no matter how great, little or none at all. Know that daily you and your families are all in my prayers and that I am joyously grateful that you are.
Please know and try to appreciate, that the church doors are open to all alike and the reason that it is so, is because of people like you. Thank you.
Enjoy, appreciate your family and friends not just at this Pascha Easter time, but always.
They are your only family and friends.
Christ is Risen. Indeed He has Risen.
Fr. Paul Berezniuk.
Ukrainian Catholic Church of Protection of the Mother of God in Newcastle
Pascha Easter, 2018 April, 8
This post is also available in: Ukrainian