Choosing the better part

Choosing the better part

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Crisis of the Resurrection

What is it that we are celebrating at Easter?  And does our celebration express the reality?  For you see, the new life of the Resurrection is just that - a new life involving a decisive break with the old.  Death itself is not more final than the Christian's severance from the past.  We share in the wonder of the resurrection by entering a life wholly new both in moral quality and spiritual scope.  After the resurrection there is no going back to the ordinary patterns of life - to our familiar and comfortable ways.  

      St. Paul seeks to help us understand this in terms of baptism.  All of us, he writes, who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

We walk in newness of life.  No phrase could more fittingly express the nature of what takes place at the resurrection.  It is a crisis that is radically disruptive, rupturing not just the structure we want our lives to have, but the underlying attitude of our will and its demand that life conform to it.  The Crisis of the Resurrection calls into question our hearts deepest desire to have its own way.  To give up the control and direction of our own existence: this is, for us, the ultimate death, the crisis that undermines our being in the most radical way.  As those who profess to be Christians, as those who have been united with him, baptized into his death, we are no longer leading our own lives.  We are no longer "in control" but "in Christ".  

Jesus death on the Cross was but the final expression of his opposition to everything that was evil.  It was an absolute and conclusive breach with sin.  The same thing happens in the believer's case.  We too have decisively renounced our allegiance and servitude to sin.  The past and what it has meant to us has been destroyed.  Our old self has been crucified.   
No crisis exacts a higher price from us than an encounter with the Risen Christ.  

But the very thing we call crisis, the saints call grace and their joy comes from surrendering themselves to it.   Christianity is not a new way of organizing our lives; it is our way of abandoning ourselves to the crisis that is never resolved but always deepening.   True believers, we will never stop offering our self to that ordeal.  The rupturing of the heart, the crucifying of the self, is to be no one time or sometime thing; our whole life is to be a rending, a fissure.  Yet, standing before the empty tomb with the women, we begin to understand that the poverty and loss we experience in this death to self is inseparable from our richness in coming alive in Christ.

When we first hear this, we like the apostles believe it to be an idle tale, the babbling of a fevered and insane mind.  But when we experience it for ourselves, when we like Peter take the risk of faith and run to the tomb, we will discover a kind of joy which, although hidden in the recesses of suffering, surpasses all our pleasures and all our hopes for the fullness of life and love. 

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