Many, if not the majority of people, ask about “what to do”. How to preserve the grace that you think you have gained during Great Lent? How not to lose the state of joy that you felt at the Paschal service? At long last, how to abide with Christ if it seems that you have achieved something similar during Lent and Passion Week?
Why Do We Need God from Time to Time?
These questions arise every time it is Passion Week and Pascha, and after that comes the time for barbecue parties, vacations, visiting family and friends, and, as some people say, the time to finally break your fast. There is nothing wrong with that. I have one answer to all of this, “Nothing can prevent a person to abide with Christ”.
I believe there is a nuance that all of us do not fully understand. We feel like Lent teaches us to abide with Christ. Yet Lent is about something else. Abiding with Christ in church is not only the time of Lent. Abiding with Christ is the goal of Christian life, our dailiness, our everyday life in accordance with the Gospel.
When a person sets abiding with God as a task, and only for the time of Lent, then its fulfillment is inevitably postponed. Looking into one’s life is enough to understand that we need God from time to time. There are times when for some reason He is particularly needed and important for us. Sometimes, He is not important for us at all. We easily forget about God, but it is terrible to imagine God forgetting about us even for a moment.
God needs people constantly, always. Even in hell, He needs us.
Christ will descend into us, because He needs each of us even at the deepest part of hell. Not so long ago in the singing of the “Lamentations” on Good Friday we heard that Christ, having not found Adam on earth, descended into hell to find him there, “Thou hast come down to earth to save Adam, and having not found him on earth, Thou hast descended, searching him, even into Hades”.
A person, who needs God from time to time, should not be surprised by what happens to them after Pascha. They should not be surprised that they withdraw from Christ. To live by devoting fasting to God, devoting a separate block of time to Him is wrong, as it is wrong to consider “abiding with God” as an exercise that should be practiced only during Great Lent.
A Christian life is work and desire to abide with God constantly. Yes, we may fail, moreover we may fail at all times, as well as during Bright Week. We will fail doing this. I would go even further, we are generally bad at it. Yet there is nothing wrong with that, it would just be good to understand one day that we need Christ as much as He needs us. It would be nice to try to arrange one’s life so that year by year and day by day the thirst for God and desire to abide with Him would become our natural state. Then we will not have to be afraid that we will lose Him if we are having a barbecue outside or relaxing in a pleasant company, for we will still abide with God.
If we always need Him, we are always with Him. If we have a thirst for God in us, we will not go away from Him. If we want to be with Him, we will be. The main question is not about how to stay with Christ, but what does abiding with Him mean for us!
God Does Not Force Us to Take Communion
Someone is wondering, “Why is it necessary to take Communion on Pascha and during Bright Week?” My answer is that it is not. There is no obligation at all to do this. God does not make us take Communion. Every time God just calls us, the people, who came to the Divine Liturgy, to do it.
All the time I am surprised that at our church there are 350 communicants on Palm Sunday, 500 communicants on Pascha, and 100 communicants a week later. What happens to people? Why does Communion suddenly turn into something unnecessary and unwanted by them? My question is usually answered like, “Why, I already took Communion”. This is the best evidence of how much we “want” to be with God, how much we “need” Christ.
Church exists as a place where we learn how to be with Him. “In the temple of Thy glory, o Lord, we stand in heaven”, we say at Matins. In saying, “We believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”, we often see the image of the earthly church, which is actually difficult to believe in, at least because all of the earth is corruptible.
Patriarchates, jurisdictions, the earthly church as a church institution are temporary, albeit the most understandable and obvious to us. Alas, we do not see another Church. Alas, the canonical questions and problems of autocephaly are becoming more important and fundamental to us than the Gospel commandments, which alone can determine the inner life of the Church.
What is it all about? It is about the fact that we perceive the Church as a consumer. We have learned to use it for our needs and purposes considering it as something pious and right.
The result is an attitude to the Eucharist and other sacraments as to a function, that is as something that I can piously use for myself. Yes, it sounds terrible, but it is the way it is.
When we want to use something, it ceases to be necessary to us. The benefit that can be derived becomes useful. Now we use the Sacrament of Confession as a pass to Communion, and baptism as “an action useful for children”, for identification in society, “because we are Russians and must be baptized”. Finally, we think of Communion as a means “to improve our spiritual life”, as if it were some kind of seasoning. However, the sacrament is the life of the Church, one can live in it, abide in it, but it cannot be used. Father Alexander Schmemman said that the Church itself is a Sacrament.
We Just Do Not Understand that the Church is Our Life
Now I want to ask believers a question. So why do not we take Communion every day during Bright Week? Why do we, Christians, allow ourselves not to take Communion? Who gave us the right to use the Eucharist as a convenient element of church life? Is the Eucharist so small that we allow ourselves to neglect it, use it for ourselves when the need arises? When we answer these questions, it becomes clear: we just do not understand that the Church is our life.
When we think that it is pious not to take Communion on Pascha if we already took Communion on Great Thursday, then maybe we should not have done it on Thursday? Why take Communion at all if you do not understand that this is LIFE?
Should we be surprised when “we were so happy on Pascha, and now everything is gone”?
My dears, you cannot believe in the Church, which is a function, you cannot treat Communion as a benefit. You can only believe in the Church that is your life, in the Eucharist that is your Life. Then a question “should I take communion?” should not arise, for if the Eucharist is life, I cannot not live, I cannot avoid being with Christ!
Abiding with Christ is hard, incredibly difficult, and it is always a feat. Yet this is the whole point, after all, every day is Pascha for those, who are with Christ! Christ is Risen!