The Eternal Pascha
Isaiah 66:10-24, especially vs. 10: "Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and all you that love her hold in her a general assembly: rejoice greatly with her, all that now mourn over her...." Pascha is eternal salvation, although accomplished once in the past by the Life-giver.
This prophecy from Isaiah floods us with the radiance of that eternal Pascha, with grace from on High. Let none conceive that the Lord's Pascha and victory is merely a single, past event.
In fact, all that we celebrate in Great and Holy Week transforms and transcends the strictures of time. The Cross, the nails, the spear, and death are eternal along with the glorious Resurrection.
The Lord's triumph is an eternal, active promise, a hope and earnest now of Life to come. Let us arise, day by day, more and more, into His timeless Pascha, until finally on the night of Resurrection, the uncreated Light breaks upon us to our great exultation and rejoicing.
In addition, let us be aware, in all sobriety, that the vision of Isaiah also is a warning. For, at the end of this age, the Lord shall execute judgment on all mankind, "and by His sword, upon all flesh; and those slain by the Lord shall be many" (vs. 16) and "their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched," (vs. 24).
Therefore, let us cry to the Life-Giver, "Lord Have Mercy!"
The Septuagint (LXX) reveals that the prophecy opens with a call to the People of God to assemble by adding the phrase, "and all you that love her hold in her a general assembly" (vs. 10 LXX). As Father Schmemann taught: "Christ came to `gather into one the children of God who were scattered abroad' (Jn. 11:52), and from the very beginning the eucharist was a manifestation and realization of the unity of the new people of God, gathered by Christ and in Christ." As the Church, we have fasted in Christ. Now, let us travel together to Lazarus' tomb and enter Jerusalem to join the Lord in the Upper Room, in Gethsemane, and at Golgotha, even now to mourn but soon to rejoice as the New Jerusalem. Let us gather with our Mother, the Church.
Indeed, let us come gladly to the maternal embrace, for from the Church we receive the nurturing milk of eternity and delight in "the abundance of her glory" (vs. 11). As the Apostle Paul said, "in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace" (Eph. 2:13,14).
Though "the Lord is with His servants...His indignation is against His enemies" (Is. 66:14). Therefore, let us come in repentance and purity.
Let us heed the Prophet's warning: "For behold, the Lord will come in fire, and His chariots like the storm wind, to ... execute judgment, and by His sword, upon all flesh; and those slain by the Lord shall be many" (vss.15,16).
Let us not be counted among those "who sanctify and purify themselves" fraudulently while they "go into the gardens" to delight their passions, follow the latest fads of self-indulgence, and eat the "swine's flesh" of immorality. For those who embrace "abomination...shall come to an end together, says the Lord"
When the Lord says, "I will set a sign among them, and from them I will send survivors to the nations" (vs.19), He is speaking of the Life-bearing Cross and of all the Apostolic laborers whom He is sending to "make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19). Let each one acknowledge that the Lord's commission is laid upon the whole Church, which includes us all. We are to "bring all our brethren from all the nations as an offering to the Lord" (vs. 20). Today, in every nation, and in our own cities and among our neighbors and friends, the missionary work continues. Beloved of the Lord, let us consider well the alternatives the Lord sets before us in this reading. The "new heavens and the new earth...shall remain" (vs.22). Let us labor for that which will endure and not be counted among them "that have rebelled against the Lord" (vs. 24).
Grant us in this world the knowledge of Thy truth, and in the age to come, life everlasting.
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