Bright Week is the week following the Bright Resurrection of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. During this week there is no fasting, and the customary greeting is “Christ is risen!” During this week the normal hours of prayer of the Church and home are replaced by the Paschal Hours. It is a week of celebration and rejoicing.
I have not had much to rejoice in this Lent just ended, save in the rich mercies of our God. What began well, yet again ended miserably. Not merely in external conformity to Lenten rules, themselves only tools to greater goods. Rather my inward house was full of rot and stench, and I allowed sloth and despondency to rule my soul. This seems to happen every Lent. It is excruciatingly humiliating, though it’s benefit is clearly wrought by Christ to keep me from delusion and pride.
But just as has happened every Pascha, when St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal homily is read, tears of simultaneous repentance and thanksgiving well up. This year it was these words in particular that freed me from myself to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection:
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.
Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward
“He both accepteth the deeds, and welcometh the intentions”! What sinner like myself cannot but feel remorse and tearful joy at those words. I came to Pascha with the words of Esau: “Bless me, even me.” For I, too, had sold my inheritance for pottage. I, too, had disregarded whose I am. But the Lord condescended in his grace to accept me with his saints and warriors, I who wandered off and ate the food of swinish passions.
So, it was with further joy that as I began another cycle of reading through St. Benedict’s Rule yesterday, the first day of Bright Week, that I heard again the gracious message of God:
Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is the advice from a father who loves you; welcome it and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to him from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up you own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.
First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection. In his goodness, he has already counted us as sons, and therefore we should never grieve him by our evil actions. With his good gifts which are in us, we must obey him at all times . . . . (Prologue 1-6)
In the mercies of the Lord, Pascha has brought me yet another chance to begin again.
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