11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Christ is Risen! Two days, that’s all. Just two days. Two days have passed since the celebration of Great and Glorious Pascha. Two days since we have heard the good news of the death of death and the rising of the Son. Two days since the brazen gates were brought low and the souls of those who were held captive in torment were lifted up. Just two days.
The world spins on. You can almost feel the boots of others struggling to climb up and over people to just get a glimpse of the sun or to catch just a pocket of fresh air. You can sense the desperation and the abandon in their actions as they struggle for meaning, for control, for understanding, for power.
And we, the Orthodox having just run the course of the Fast, join right in.
Oh, please don’t think I am saying that I am better off than anyone else: whatever vantage point I hold is because my boots have done some climbing too. I know (and hate, really) how the Penguins/Caps series is going. I am fully aware of Ted Cruz, the Donald, Hillary and the Bern. Irritainment at its best.
And I continue to be aware of the scourge of heroin throughout Pennsylvania as it slowly creeps over and through the hills and valleys like some post-modern angel of death, sparing none. Some things should not be ignored or covered up. It casts its plague on the just and the unjust, leaving none unaffected. It does not give a damn about fasts or feasts – I know of its many casualties, and they have passed in every season, including this season of Holy Pascha. It is Leviathan, and we are its pitiful playthings.
Yes, the world spins on. Yet two days and the resurrection seems to be so far away. Yet, that is part of the challenge, isn’t it?
The passage from St. Luke at the top of this article helps to drive home my thoughts on the matter. Christ, the Physician and Healer of our souls and bodies, has cured us of the leprosy of death. Without Him we would be lost, alienated, and estranged from all that we hold dear like the lepers were. Through Pascha we have been delivered from our fate, raised up and brought to where God wanted us to be all along. Through Him we are totally healed.
Yet now that it is Pascha and we have come to the end of our leprous journey, we scatter like the nine who were healed in the Gospel narrative, eager to resume normal life, never thinking of coming back to say thank you. The zaniness of our world comes back to fill our time and attention; after all, nature despises a vacuum. We put our boots back on, because for a time our feet were bare – standing on holy ground, you know. We put our boots back on and climb, frantically searching for a glimpse of light or a waft of fresh air.
We should, rather, be like the one, like the Samaritan, who returned and fell at the feet of our Lord. Recognizing that his life was forever changed for the better, he came back and fell at the feet of Christ His Savior and Healer. This is exactly what we should do. The world indeed will spin on. The desperation will not go away. But the desperation I speak of is there because Christ is not. A better way to put it is that Christ is eclipsed. Our towers are too high, our walls too thick.
Elder Sophrony speaks of the inverted pyramid: people climb up when they should instead be descending where Christ is at the pinnacle – which is actually at the bottom – and the ways of the world are at the top. Christ teaches us through Lent, Holy Week and Pascha, that to lose is to gain, to be weak is to be strong. As counterintuitive as it seems, the Light is at the bottom, the fresh air is beneath us. It is counterintuitive because the world is obsessed with power, control, violence, and security, which is symbolized by the top of Blessed Sophrony’s pyramid. Only when these things are given up will we know peace. Only then will we know Christ.
It is sad that we are in such a hurry to return to the world and its ways. I hope, for my sake and for everyone’s, the I can and we can take what we have heard, learned and done during this holy season and bring it to the world. No, we will not save the world – Christ will save the world. If we can bring Him to the world, however, as gently and as faithfully as we know how, then just maybe the world will be a little less crazed, a little less existentially neurotic.
We need to be like the Samaritan leper. We need to worship and adore the Resurrected Christ. The world will still be there when we are completely ready to return. Hopefully at that time we will be better equipped to be in the world and not of it.
Christ is Risen!