Egg on the Face

A few days ago was the Western Easter and as normal, the old facebook was filled with the types of things you’d expect on Easter: posts about redemption and Jesus, simple “Happy Easter”s, and pictures of little kids in suits hunting for eggs. Yet a couple of things that I had hardly noticed last year around this time cropped up again this year and in more force.

As you may or may not know, I identify most strongly right now with that of the Orthodox tradition. In their Easter or Pascha service, a phrase is used quite frequently; that of “He is risen!” with the response of “Indeed He is risen!” I had never heard this phrase before I had begun to go to Pascha service about four or five years ago and it struck me as something unique to the Orthodox faith, like a calling card of sorts. It seemed kind of like the custom in Alabama of saying “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle” to which the other party would respond in kind as a symbol of a shared secret brotherhood to which the outsider was ignorant.

Last year, Pascha and Easter were on the same day so when I saw the Facebook posts stating “He is risen” and “Indeed He is risen” from some people whose faith I did not know precisely, it only passed over me that perhaps there were more people out there that found Orthodoxy, or at least perhaps the liturgy, inspiring. This year by contrast, I saw about a tenfold occurrence of the phrases used by people I now know, or have known, have nothing at all to do with Orthodoxy or Catholicism (or any faith with a liturgy). Indeed, the phrase has morphed into “He is risen” and “He is risen indeed”. A very odd thing that protestants would want to take something from a liturgy at all, so I figured that the changing of the phrase was to make it slightly less recognizable in its origins.

Then, as I was wondering about this, I saw some other posts not saying “Happy Easter” but instead saying “Happy Resurrection Sunday.” OK, I thought, so they are trying to put the emphasis on what Easter is all about, but then that didn’t really make that much since because that is all Easter is about to begin with. Why the need to change the name at all?

At this point, something occurred to me. Several years ago, a pastor friend of mine said that their particular church was trying to incorporate more things into its service that were “high church,” as he described it. It was this recollection that made me reach a kind of epiphany as to what was going on. I’m not sure why, but it seemed to me like these folks weren’t really sure who they were. It seemed like they were re-branding themselves, or at least re-branding what it was they were professing. It’s not as though this would be anything new, modern protestant churches are usually trying to change things about themselves so they appeal to more and more people, but for some reason these simple little observations make me feel like the re-branding has gone deeper than just changing service styles to changing the faith below.

It’s worth noting that I already feel like when I visit protestant churches now a days it feels like I’m going to amateur hour. Perhaps it’s my terrible judgmental side coming out, but after seeing how the Orthodox conduct themselves in worship to God, seeing protestants attempt the same thing with little to no “professional” guidance makes it seem a shadow of what it could otherwise be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not commenting on the sincerity of those present in the service, but the service itself and the underlying principles seem pale and transparent, like returning from the Louvre to a small town art show.

What stuck me how the use of these things, the liturgical phrases and changing of the name Easter, seemed like new paint on a worn out car. It is as if to keep the spirit of Easter alive they have to take from the “high church” and make it seem as though they are closer to deep truth than they would be otherwise. It is as if they admit that they have lost the meaning of Easter already that they must rename it. And I find myself asking, if they already lost the name, why would they not lose it again? What is in a name? If they find deeper truth in liturgy, why do they insist on just taking bits of it, why not the whole thing? Or to put it more bluntly, do they know who they are?

I guess the real rub of the matter is that in just seeing a few phrases bandied about, I find myself thinking that the answer is: no, they do not know who they are. All the re-branding is just a glossing over of that fact. If you keep changing yourself, you come to a point when you no longer can point to the real you. I have to wonder, are they willing to ask themselves who they really are? Am I?

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