Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The resurrection and the life

Although I believe it to be a fact, the resurrection of Christ sometimes seems, even to me, to be irrelevant. You see, I am a Christian living in the affluent West, where we enjoy every comfort and scoff at necessity. As for unpleasant things such as death, we’ve hidden its evidence so well that many of us, even adults, have never even been in the presence of a dead body. Faced with the indifference of most people to ‘the blessed hope,’ I little wonder, that if they think of it at all, it’s something like ‘the resurrection? Who needs it?’

Not so, however, for the world at the time of Christ, when people were familiar with death and with the dead. Everyone from small children to adults, not only the poor but the rich as well, had seen dead bodies, even mutilated ones. For them, the ‘joyful tidings of the Resurrection’ were exactly that. Without the visual aid of ikons of Christ harrowing Hades or the lengthy liturgies of Holy Week, they appreciated far more than we the significance and the relevance of Christ’s rising from the dead. Without having seen it, they believed.

The same has been true for the vast majority of human beings who have lived since the Event occurred. That is, until science debunked death by making it ‘almost’ avoidable. ‘Death is a sickness like any other, and we will find the cure.’ They who think thus are ‘almost’ right. Perhaps before long science will ‘catch up’ with theology in this area as it has in other areas of investigation. ‘The wages of sin is death’ is the poetic way that holy and divine scripture puts it, and as for the cure? Well, we know what sole Physician holds the keys. Which keys? Those of Hades and death.

Except where I live, as I said, most of the world is still familiar with death. This is no doubt why Christianity is growing in the Third World and shrinking in the West: dying out in much of Europe and being anesthetized in North America and the ‘white’ Commonwealth. In the lands of Islam, a religion that denies the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus but not His virgin birth or ascension to heaven, the resurrection must have a particular poignancy. For it is death to leave Islam for Christ, and anyone, even one’s relatives, can execute the sentence with impunity.

It is not the time of year to be talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I know. The Church has orchestrated our worship in an annual cycle of themes designed to lead us ‘from glory to glory,’ and at least the Orthodox maintain that Sunday’s sanctity is bound up with nothing other than the resurrection. The Sabbath itself has never been abrogated, though the rest of the old law has been set aside in favor of a new law, love itself as revealed to humanity in the only true Man who ever lived. But a darkness settles itself on more than the sleepers of Ephesus, and the time is near.

Not in formalities, not in ceremonies, not in consumptive reading, nor in compelling lectures. Not in frenetic church activities nor narcissistic ‘evangelism,’ not in visible piety nor God-impressing charities. Not in singing up a storm, not in retelling and reliving history, not in anything we offer up to God in hope of pleasing Him, not even in sinning our best in the attempt to attract His grace. But in living with our eyes and ears open, in having hearts full of mercy and hands to deliver it, in knowing no fear of loss because we live in His victory. Therein we regain the resurrection and the life.

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