As I write this, the Triodion, or the three-week period before Lent has just begun, so naturally, my mind turns towards the journey which we, as Orthodox Christians, are about to undergo and that journey is the journey toward Pascha. Toward the feast of all feasts. A feast whereby we celebrate Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and his triumph over our most dreaded and hated of foes, namely that that which is death. A celebration of the fulfillment of a promise made between God and His creation that He would not abandon us, but that in His own time and in His own way, He would redeem us and heal us from the curse that we had placed ourselves under when we ate of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden and that through this redemption, He would restore us to right relationship with Him in that good and perfect kingdom that would be without end.

But as many of us know by now, this journey which we are about to undergo is not a simple journey, nor is it necessarily a journey of ease and comfort. No, this trek that we are about to begin is one that requires that we must travel lightly and unencumbered; that we must change our foci, and attune our senses differently. Learning how to read the subtle signs that mark the way; signs which will keep us safely in middle of that straight and narrow path leading towards Christ’s Pascha and ultimately to Christ Himself. This journey also requires abilities of us, too – love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – abilities which for many of us, if we are honest, are less developed than what they should be.

With this journey in mind, the Church in her wisdom asks us to refrain from certain foods which may weigh us down; preferring us to seek our fill instead in the Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts. The Church also asks us to fast from other mundane activities as well, preferring our attention to be centered on her services and daily readings, as these will prevent us from wandering off the narrow path and missing out on completing the journey. And, as with any good trek, the Church realizes that a journey shared with another is a one that will ultimately have more meaning, so she provides us with numerous traveling companions along the way: God’s Holy Scriptures, the daily readings of the lives of Saints, fellow parishioners, priests, and of course, the ultimate traveling companion, God Himself.

Perhaps a passage which best sums up our journey towards Christ’s Pascha, comes from King David and his 23rd Psalm, wherein he writes:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

With this promise in hand, beloved, let us undertake this journey which we have been called to, with vigor and joy, considering anything else as loss, “…compare(d) to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ…” (Philippians 3:8) and of hopefully gaining Christ, too.