Because of my long background as a Protestant, I have to admit that there are a lot things about Orthodoxy that I’ve categorized as “strange.” Don’t misunderstand me. It’s all beautiful and filled with incredible meaning and mystery. In fact, I’m sure it’s “strange” to me only because of my context. The more acclimated I become to life in the Orthodox Church, the more natural everything seems. For example, I can no longer imagine a Christian life or worship without icons, incense, chanting, liturgy and a priest, just to name a few aspects.
But I think the one thing that will take much more time to become natural is being out of sync with the rest of my culture in celebrating Easter. The Orthodox Church uses a different calendar in regards to Easter than pretty much the rest of Western Christianity. So rarely does Orthodox Pascha (Easter) fall on the same Sunday as Western Easter. Some years, like this year, the two Easters are a week apart (Orthodox Easter is April 19th while everyone else celebrates Easter on April 12th). Some years, like last year, the two Easters are almost a month apart. Frankly, it’s really weird.
Both my family and Debbie’s family are evangelical Christians. Many of our friends are evangelical Christians. And so, as we approach this weekend, there have been many well-wishes of a “Happy Easter.” I see signs and banners everywhere for Easter services this weekend. My kids have been on Spring break this week. I even get a 1/2 day holiday at work for Good Friday. We’ll probably get together with our families this Sunday, and maybe even have an Easter egg hunt for the kids.
I’m glad Easter is celebrated in our culture. And I’m so thrilled that many people in our lives truly know and celebrate Christ’s resurrection. But it’s so strange delaying our actual celebration while the “rest of the world” prepares for this holiday. As I just mentioned, we’ll join in some of our families’ celebration, but not fully. For what’s Easter’s joy without first journeying through Holy Week?
While Holy Week is climaxing this weekend for those around us, it’s just starting for my family and parish tomorrow with Lazarus Saturday and then moving into Palm Sunday this coming Sunday. Now that I think about it, it’s going to be odd this Sunday morning when our parish processes outside with palm branches the same day all the surrounding churches will be celebrating Easter. And on that same day, my family will move from Palm Sunday and the anticipation of Christ’s death directly into the joy of Easter with our families and then back into the somberness of Holy Week with our parish through the rest of the week.
This weekend is a microcosm of our family’s life as new Orthodox Christians. We always feel just slightly out of sync with the rest of our Christian family members and friends. I’m not complaining, mind you. Debbie and I value the people God has placed in our lives and we have chosen to live closely with them. So that often means coping with quizzical looks when we try to explain why we pray differently, worship differently, eat differently, celebrate strange feasts days, go to confession, use odd words (like Pascha), and say and do a host of other things that are part of our Orthodox life.
Yet I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love Orthodoxy. I love being an Orthodox Christian. Journeying through Lent this year as part of the Orthodox Church has reminded me how much I need the fullness of Christ’s life that is in Holy Orthodoxy. As I’ve alluded in my last several posts, I sense something has “clicked” inside of me. In fact, it’s probably more accurate to say that something that was hindering me “broke” a couple of weeks ago. As I continue settling into Orthodoxy, I’m sensing increasing clarity and stability in my relationship with God, his people and myself. The fears that have whispered to me these last several years are becoming silent, replaced with a growing confidence to move boldly back into life.