“THE POST PASCHA ‘SLUMP'”
The fifty day season of Pentecost, which follows Pascha, can be a difficult time for Orthodox Christians. Many of us, having made the effort to revitalize our spiritual life through the Lenten disciplines of prayer and fasting, easily fall back into the same “ruts” which had previously defined our lives. (I know of this personally!)
Nevertheless, I believe that if we are able to anticipate this challenge, it might be easier for us to keep ourselves a bit safer from the “post-Pascha slump.” For we know that in our fallen state, it is, tragically, so much easier to slide downard from virtue into vice than it is to ascend from the vices to the virtues. Meaning that we have to live with a certain “gravity” of our fallen human nature which, if left to itself, will inevitably spiral downwards. Yet this brings us to the question of change. Why is it both so easy, as we have already said, to fall deeper and deeper into sin and yet so incredibly difficult, or more precisely “humanly impossible,” for us to free ourselves from its destructive, habitual nature? The truth is that if we fail to RESIST our sins, if we fail to “fight the good fight,” we “devolve” as human persons on many different levels: physically, emotionally, morally, and spiritually.
Young children are all born into the world with the seed of sin buried deep within their hearts. Children are innocent and pure, of course. But they still possess the seed of sin within. This is the Original Sin, which is a formal doctrine of our Church. We have all been born “outside of paradise,” and this means that we inherit a deeply rooted predisposition towards sin. As we grow older, these sins of self-centeredness, gluttony, anger, lustfulness, avarice, etc., become active passions—desires and behaviors that separate us from the love of God. St. Paul calls this the “Old Adam.”
The inception of sin is a desire for evil things planted into our hearts by Satan. Just as Eve was deluded into thinking that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was pleasant, so we too are made to believe in the falsehood that the fruit of sin is sweet. This means that sin, by nature, is always a “bait and switch” because it delivers the opposite of what it promises to give: instead of happiness, it gives an unbearable sadness (spiritual despair); instead of freedom, it gives enslavement; instead of life, it gives death.
Sin digs its way into our personal being through the power of active repetition. The Devil says: “Go ahead, once won’t hurt.” Yet before we know it, our sin becomes regularized, and we are powerless over it. After the passions have taken control of our minds, hearts, and wills, spiritual death occurs. This downward spiral of moral bankruptcy is shown to us in the epistle of St. James. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God,’ for God tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death” (James 1:13-15).
During this Easter season, we are thus being reminded about the miracle of change. As human beings, we must be transformed before we can enter into the Kingdom of God.