Orthodox Christians refer to Pascha as the “Feast of Feasts.” It is in the death and resurrection of Jesus that the Kingdom of God has exploded into this world forever transforming every level of existence. Christ takes on the full weight of the world’s “toxins,” darkness, evil, fears and hatred, into Himself. Jesus lives a total life of faithfulness and obedience, continually choosing communion with God and His mission fulfill Israel’s (and through that, all of humanity’s) destiny “to the point of death,” wherein He crushes death and evil. Christ’s Cross and Resurrection provide a way of “transfusing” His own “life’s blood” cleansing us of the venom of evil that laces our lives. His being organically bonded to us at every level of our existence brings us to our full destiny of being human. Full humanity, body and soul, that God always intended since the Garden of Eden, now comes out of the “Garden Tomb” embodied in the risen Christ. The “opened tombs” and consequent resurrection of the “saints, who, after His rising who appear to many in the holy city” (i.e. Jerusalem Matthew 27: 51) shows how Jesus’ death and resurrection has indeed changed the shape of the world we live in. Christ’s resurrection begins the general resurrection of all humanity (why Orthodox have no problem seeing the Virgin Mary as “bodily taken” after her physical death) and the restorative transformation of the whole creation. The realities of this world are joined to the Reality of God in the very Person of Jesus.
Pentecost, the Holy Spirit coming upon the gathered Apostolic Community, births and “enfleshes” (enhumanizes) the Reality of Pascha. As the Spirit was hovering over the waters” in Genesis “hatching” creation (1: 2) and “overshadows” the Virgin Mary (Luke 1: 35), so a “new” humanity is “re-birthed,” embodied in the Person of Christ whose death and resurrection complete (fulfill) the “recreation.” The June 1944 D Day invasion pales as a shadow to the Kingdom of God’s exploding into our world through Christ at Pascha. Death’s back is broken and, as C.S. Lewis observed “begins to go backwards.” The people of Normandy had to choose whether or not they would work with the allies to further the invasion and be part of the final victory. This meant they had to proactively be part of the victory.
Church is the “embassy” of this “already existing Reality” of the Kingdom “on earth as in heaven.” The Community as a whole, each member, proactively works (synergizes) to uncover God participating in our everyday ordinary mortal realities and to let the Spirit transform them into opportunities and a means of participation in the life of the immortal Lord. Every local Church is the sovereign terrain (embassy) of this invading Kingdom, integrating people into the very body of the risen Jesus re-birthing/re-creating humanity and the entire world. Membership is partnering with the King who, out of His Passionate love, rescued us from the slavery of darkness and death. Worship, all liturgical celebration, is there to uncover and connect us to the Reality of God and His Kingdom already present in the world. As birth is truly the opposite of death, the Church “labors” with and participates in that already existing re-creative movement.
St Matthew’s is where the entire Community system, rather than just the priest or a “pocket” in a Parish, worships and serves to others to further uncover the resurrected Christ’s Kingdom participating in our lives. People of all backgrounds, regardless of financial status, ethnic background, past failures or struggles, responding to the invitation of the risen Lord, are not just “allowed to come to Services,” but integrated into the life of the whole Church. The Parish is an environment of birth and healing/restoration rather than a country club or lodge. Because of the already existing Reality of the Kingdom of God, we do as a Community whatever it takes to progress St Matthew’s and its vision. We are looking at different types of fund raisers, etc to become more solidly self sustaining. Lent teaches us to let go of not only food, but all that keeps us from fuller participation in Christ through the Church. Like our appetites (& stomachs), we keep from “stuffing” our schedules so as to have more room (time) to serve the Lord. And while St Matthew’s is not on most peoples radar (few people and fewer larger Parishes, regardless of the urgings from even our own hierarchs, seriously help or “adopt” domestic mission Communities), we are thankful for those who see the Lord’s work here, our vision for what it means to be Church, and do support us. Please keep us in your prayers.
St Matthew’s knows God does not measure success of a Church by the “buildings” we have, but by the ongoing transformation of lives in repentance connecting to the risen Christ in His very own body. This is why we seem willing, like Zacchaeus the tax-collector (Luke 19: 1 – 10) “to go out on a limb” and work for the vision of this Parish rather than ever give up. The Services of the Church are there to express and enhance our participation in the already present and coming Kingdom of God in the larger world rather than some exotic cultural practices of the past or generic sentimental religiosity. The “other worldliness” of our Services is to submit our realities to the Reality of the true Lord and King of the cosmos already present in this world. So as we participate in the celebrations of Lent, Pascha and Pentecost, may the Reality of the risen Jesus and the coming Age be more uncovered in those ordinary everyday realties.
Christ is Risen!