THE WORD MAGAZINE, MAY 1970 PAGE 17
Christ is Among Us
“Know that I am with you always; even to the end of time.”
At ASCENSION we depart from the Paschal mystery of Christ’s resurrection. We acknowledge that the period in which Jesus visited the disciples to witness his victory over death and corruption, proved to them that it was not a mere apparition, a wish-fulfillment that they were experiencing in his presence, but that he had truly risen from the dead, and that he would be with them and all who were baptized into him, “to the end of time.
As he told Mary Magdalene in the garden, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” (John 20:17) We take leave of Easter, yet in a sense the Paschal joy remains with us throughout the year. Easter is the joy of Christ’s presence, so wherever we are together with him, we are sharing in the Easter resurrection. Remember his final words on earth. “I am with you always!”
He is saying to the policeman patrolling an area filled with hostility and volatile with instant danger, “You are not alone.”
The factory worker, surrounded with deafening sounds of metal crashing on metal, incessant, rhythmic pistons plunging, ball-peen hammers rapping, and foremen shouting above it all, can find quiet within himself and the peace of Christ’s presence.
The supervisor, caught between the production demands from “upstairs” and the grievances of his staff need not suppress the panic within him or escape with momentary alcoholic relief, if he learns to reach out to the ever-present Lord who cares about him.
When we Orthodox call the regular Sunday Divine Liturgy a minor Easter, we are reminding ourselves that the joy of Christ’s presence which the myrrh-bearing women would not allow themselves to believe in lest it be a delusion, the overwhelming mystical meeting that St. Thomas felt when he experienced the risen Jesus can and ought to be ours as well. We meet to proclaim his presence among us, and we are strengthened by that encounter.
This year as we take leave of Christ at the Ascension, we cannot anticipate what awaits us to the next Pascha. Certainly it won’t be the most difficult time in the Orthodox Church history, but it might be one most of us will remember, different from the isolated, secure age we all have taken for granted. Non-Orthodox Christianity is passing through traumatic days in this time, and how will we not be affected by it? Who would imagine that the largest body, known for authority and uniformity would undergo such obvious changes? Only a few years ago, who could have predicted in this nation, such blatant defiance of democracy, while instruments of order stand helpless?
In all of this, we must see the workings of God. Have we disobeyed Him by trusting in our own ability to live without Him? Did America become a substitute heaven for us? Are the churches including our own arrogant to humanity, lacking in compassion and oblivious to personal needs?
It is not for us to judge, but to find and to cherish the living presence of the Risen Christ among us.
By REV. VLADIMIR BERZONSKY,
Holy Trinity Church, Parma, Ohio