Pascha was glorious in New Castle this year. It is a fairly grueling time for me, but one that I relish deeply. I get to journey through the Passion with many people, and I get to reacquaint myself with many others. I, unlike some of my brothers, actually like to hear confessions during Holy Week. Somehow it just intensifies the spiritual dimensions of the season.
This year was different. On Thursday night, a horrible accident occurred, not half a block from where I was, vainly trying to find Saturn though a telescope. The sirens were coming from all directions. You could hear them converging. And then the horrible event occurred. This picture shows the three cars involved. In the distance, the car belonging to the girl who foolishly fled a routine traffic stop. What were her motivations? Who knows. In the foreground, the white car belonging to one of my parishioners, which was moved between 20 and 40 feet from its original parking place by the impact. The car between them was a pursuing police car, which was hit broadside by the car in the distance, and which in turn hit my parishioner’s car broadside. The policeman on the passenger side of the car was fatally injured. He was a good man, a man well respected by his peers. He gave his life, all because of a foolish girl’s decision to flee. May he rest in peace.
So our first procession, the one on Holy Friday, was down the street from our church. We did not go all the way to the wreck site, but we did go about half way. Your could look through the yards and see vestiges of what remained. The procession was an attempt to bring Christ to the situation and the situation to Christ. As senseless as the incident was, as tragic as it was, God was and is still there. He understands our suffering. He shares in our pain. He is neither absent nor uncaring. He shares in our suffering, just as we remember as we journey with him from life into Hades on that night. Our God is not, however, a God of the dead. He is a God of the living. And just as hard as Hades tried to keep Him but could not, neither can Hades or death keep those whom our Lord calls. Death is annulled. Eden is set free. And our God will make sense of senseless and horrible events, just like this one that occurred late Holy Thursday night.
The next procession, that of the procession just before Pascha, took a different route. On the back left corner of the church property lies a collection of trees. Bradford pears, I think, that are planted in nice rows and tended by one of the parishioners of your church. The trees are planted in memory of loved ones who have passed away from this life to the next one. It is a memorial grove, painstakingly cared for, not for personal acclaim but out of love and respect for our departed loved ones.
We walked amidst those trees. We proclaimed the resurrection to those who have fallen. We do not have a cemetery we can walk to, so the trees did just fine. As we walk through, I saw names of people I know: Fr. George and Chris Brunish, Joe Farris, Fran Klush. I saw names of people that I wish I had known, like Fred Jacobs and Della Moses. But all will be known in the end of all things. And now we bring to them, and to everyone, the news that death has been destroyed. We proclaim the joyful message to those who had fallen. The curse has been removed. Hades has no control over us any more.
Two processions, two messages, one real message. Christ has saved us. Through his suffering, death, embittering of Hades and triumphant resurrection, we have a joy uncontainable. We have a love unfathomable. We have a God whose mercy is immeasurable. We have Pascha par excellence.
Christ is risen! Χριστός ἀνέστη! Христос воскрес! !المسيح قام