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Archive for the ‘Pascha’ Category

Restoring the Years

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” (Joel 2:25-27)

The lonely hours of bedtime, when the desolation of the lives we had built and lost presses down on us, are sometimes hard to bear. If one has endured these hours over the course of months and years, one can achieve something like a resignation, which dulls the pain that once was sharp and dries the tears that once flowed more freely. As time passes, the righteous indignation gives way to a seed of humility. The threads of choices and responsibilities, actions and reactions, are not easily untangled. Choices made in innocence can still be far from wise, and actions follow reactions down the corridors of the years, the flow of human freedom channeling rivers whose force leads us down through a countryside we had no intention of ever visiting. And in these quiet and solitary hours of nighttime in the far country, we feel the locust plague.

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In my previous post, I made some comments on death’s destruction of personal relationships and the effect of the Resurrection on those relationships. The terminology I utilized might well have given the impression that I was going to discuss the political or cultural implications of the Resurrection. I did not. In fact, I only obliquely commented that the personal effect of the Resurrection cannot be reified institutionally, in part because the Resurrection transforms persons. In this post I want to comment further, with some unstructured ad hoc reflections.

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The Resurrection appearances of Jesus were personal. There was not simply an empty tomb followed by an angelic revelation or a different version of the burning bush. There was the bodily, personal appearance of Jesus to his followers. He is not a ghost, but has flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). A person is a soul, is spirit, yes, but a person is, as the Incarnation teaches us, a body. And Jesus’ personal appearances were appearances of his whole person, body and soul, to his followers. His death, from the vantage point of his disciples, had irrevocably sundered their personal relationship. His Resurrection restored forever those connections.

We have pre-Resurrection examples of what this victory over death entails. In two instances, recorded in Luke, in which Jesus raised the dead, the dead were returned to their families: Of the widow of Nain’s son “And Jesus gave him to his mother”; of Jairus’ daughter, after dismissing everyone except her parents and three of his disciples, he raises her and then tells her parents, “Give her something to eat.” And when he healed the demonized boy after coming down from the mount of Transfiguration, Jesus “gave him back to his father.” Raising from the dead, healing, were intended to restore the social and familial connections that sickness and death harm and destroy. And in the final resurrection, St Paul writes, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The next verse, in the wonderful KJV phrasing, exhorts: “Wherefore comfort one another with these words. “

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St Peter and the Restoration

“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:7)

And what must have been in Peter’s heart at this? To him who had betrayed Christ, the Lord himself had called by name, inviting Peter to join him in Galilee.

But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. (Luke 24:12)

Did his heart race ahead of him? Did he hope to see the Lord at the tomb, just as the women had? Did he rehearse in his mind what he would say to his Lord and Master? Did the words of the parable come to mind: “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’” But he did not see the Lord there. Not yet.

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Nostalgia for the Yet To Be

There are moments in time in which our hearts are at once captured by the intensity of yearning and the delight of satisfaction, moments when our hearts are penetrated by the new which seems yet so ever familiar and true. New vistas of heart and soul open before us, and yet we know this is our place. These still points of the turning world both cast us out into the light and bring us home.

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