Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Paschal Bells

Paschal Bells

In the Western Christian tradition this is Holy Week. Good Friday is in a few days followed by Easter Sunday. In the Eastern (Orthodox) Christian tradition those landmark days occur a week later, with Pascha being celebrated on April 19.

Usually the midnight service begins at 10 PM Saturday night and doesn’t end until around 4 AM Sunday morning, when the long Lenten fast is broken with a triumphant feast. All this has been a big part of my life for many years.

From youth a strong devotional sense emerged seemingly unbidden, and I can recall the thrill of finding a small pocket New Testament lying around home. The text was beyond my comprehension but just having that book in my possession seemed like an honor.

In high school I became involved when Billy Graham brought his crusades to town, serving as one of the people who pass out literature and speak to those who come forward at the altar call.

College years produced the typical rebellion against “authority” with its predictable (though absurd) claims of atheism or at least agnosticism. But then the hammer started to fall and the file began to rasp against my life.

I joined a Christian brotherhood with New Age leanings and took vows of poverty, purity, service, obedience and humility. Spent fourteen years living in different cities serving in various capacities, such as cook, youth hostel staff, steward, seminarian, street minister, and much more.

But the main thing I learned from the years of religious practice was that NOTHING seemed capable of transforming me into a truly spiritual person. Even being ordained didn’t help, and finally I left the brotherhood in resignation.

Following this I turned with new zeal to what is reputed to be the most ancient and unchanged form of Christianity. I made pilgrimage to holy sites around the world, and wrote books about my experiences that people read.

I began to believe that my life had finally become good - pleasing to God and satisfactory to man.

But when another fourteen years had passed something started changing. What had been enough before . . . wasn’t anymore. To know things with the mind, to conceive and theorize and make clever arguments about beliefs and positions – was something I couldn't keep doing.

The sense of loss about all this is enormous, to say the least. And with that loss comes a fear that I don’t know where I am. The path that had seemed clear is no longer visible at all.

So Easter is at hand, Paschal bells are about to ring.

But I don’t know what to do about it.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thank you Ruth,

    I agree with you.

    Church services are a relentless, virtually un-ending stream of chanting, singing and bell-ringing - all very beautfiul, of course.

    I used to appreciate this panaloply of sound, since its intent of is to draw all the senses into worship of God.

    Now I long for the silence - when nothing is being said, sung or beaten against.

    I often am the last to leave, remaining in the blessed stillness after everyone else is gone.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Wow. I really appreciate all both of you have shared here and the wisdom found. I can so relate to all written. I just really feel that if either one of you entered any church or monastery anywhere, anytime, anyplace, your true Inner Presence would emmenate out and the Vibrations thereof, would fill those dark-end spaces where God's true Love has been contorted and distorted and set it free in righteousness. That through you, all hearts would hear and see and feel and be moved. You are both such a divine blessing. May the bells ring out in Truth from the stillness & silence within! In-joy Easter & thanks for your sharings, deeply appreciate! :)