Christ is Risen! Christos Anesti! We have journeyed through Great Lent, experienced the events of our Lord’s passion during Holy Week, and arrived at His glorious resurrection on Pascha!… And yet we are still on quarantine, still unable to congregate and celebrate together, still experiencing church through a computer screen.
It is hard, very hard. The joy of the resurrection is mixed with the sadness of isolation. The harmolipi (“joyful sorrow”) of Great Lent has extended past Pascha, and we catch ourselves thinking of the ways we celebrated past Paschas and the joy of communal gatherings. However if we look more closely at our past experiences, we will recall that on Paschas past it was also harmolipi; there were letdowns and unmet expectations every year. So while this year is different, it also is not.
In truth, harmolipi is the description of our entire life within the fallen world. Because where there is God and where there is sin with all of its consequences, there is joyful sorrow, the good and the bad mixed together.
As Christians, we continue to have hope–in God’s loving hand working through His creation. While we endure the sorrow, we must not forget that “all things work together for good to those who love God.” (Romans 8:28) Right now God is working out our salvation through the present circumstances! As we patiently endure this struggle, I offer some words from a beloved recent saint, St. Porphyrios, from his book, Wounded by Love. (I highly recommend this book!)
“When God does not give us something that we ask for insistently, then He has His reasons. God, too, has His ‘secrets’. Since we believe in His good providence, we believe that He knows everything about our lives and that He always desires what is good, why should we not trust Him?… We know that past, present, and future are all known, “open and laid bare” before God. As Saint Paul says, “Before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to His eyes.” (Heb. 4:13)….
“We should leave things to the will of God. Because the more we pursue something, the more it runs away from us. So what is required is patience, faith and composure. And if we forget it, the Lord never forgets; and if it is for our good, He will give us what we require when we require it.
“In our prayer we should ask only for the salvation of our soul. Didn’t the Lord say, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you”? (Matt. 6:33 & Luke 12.31). Easily, without the slightest difficulty, Christ can give us what we want.
“Remember the secret. The secret is not to think about asking for the specific thing at all. The secret is to ask for your union with Christ with utter selflessness…. God has no need to be informed by us about our various needs. He knows them all incomparably better than we do and He gives us His love….
“We should ask for the will of God to be done. That is what is in our best interest and the safest thing for us and for those for whom we pray. Christ will give us everything abundantly.
“When we have a relationship of absolute trust with Christ, we are happy and joyful. We possess the joy of Paradise. This is the secret. Then we can exclaim with Saint Paul, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” (Phil. 1:21) and, “It is no longer I who live; Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20). Such marvelous words! Delightful! All things must be done simply and gently.”
May God grant us His consolation during these difficult times!