Kindle the Flame of Pascha
Christ is Risen!
As we begin the third week of Pascha, and the excitement begins to fade, we search for ways to keep the flame from going out. It wasn’t too long ago that we endured winds and rain to bring the light home from Church and bless our house. Now, it’s easy to forget to kindle the oil lamp on our home altar. It’s easy to allow the light to go out. We can always ‘just’ relight the oil lamp. Does it really matter if the flame has been burning since Pascha?
Today the Church commemorates the Prophet Jeremiah. He spoke the truth about God more than six hundred years before Christ. He was a prophet during a period of persecution and captivity of God’s Chosen People. As the captivity dragged on, the people allowed their light to fade. Eventually the prophet was killed for speaking the truth about God.
Reading about the prophet today reminded me of a spiritual truth. Time may push on, but the challenges for God’s People remain. Every year I noticed how ‘easy’ it is, to stop greeting people with Christ is Risen, long before the Feast of Ascension. It isn’t that I don’t believe. The problem is the excitement of Pascha begins to wear off.
But then again, why should I be surprised. Today’s reading from Acts tells the story perfectly. When faced with the truth of God after you have allowed the Light to fade, the only alternative is to fight the light or give up and repent. The Jews chose to fight the light, and they killed Stephen, making him the first martyr.
In those days, Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated men, who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel. And the high priest said, “Is this so?” And Stephen said: “Brethren and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Depart from your land and from your kindred and go into the land which I will show you.’ Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans, and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living; yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him in possession and to his posterity after him, though he had no child. “But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands; as the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool. What house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?’ “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.Acts 6:8-15;7:1-5,47-60
The only way to avoid this from happening in your life is to keep your light shining brightly. It begins with keeping the flame in your oil lamp on your home altar burning. Believe it or not, when you kindle the oil lamp, you are actually kindling the lamp in your soul.
Next time you trim the wick on your oil lamp, pay attention to the process. As the wick needs trimming, the light begins to fade. With a fresh or trimmed wick, the light immediately returns to its original luster. If you ignore the fading light, it will eventually extinguish. Then, you must start all over.
The same is true in your heart. Without constant attention, the light will fade and eventually extinguish. Don’t allow it to happen. By now, three weeks into the Pascha season, the light will have faded if you have not been tending to the wick.
Of course, if you are reading this blog, chances are better that you have not allowed it to extinguish, even if it is has faded. Make this the week you trim the wick of your spiritual light and kindle the flame of Pascha in your heart. If you need help, reach out to your spiritual father. He probably has experienced what you are experiencing. We all do. It has been the case since long before Christ.