omnibus omnia

The contemporary-ness of Easter

In Atheism, Born Again, Catholicism, Christianity, Culture, Environment, Faith, God, Holidays, Jesus, Religion, Science, Spirituality on April 5, 2010 at 09:48

With groans too deep for words, all creation declares that the world is being made new (Reposted, with modifications, from an earlier article)

The Lord is Risen! Alleluia! He is truly risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The mystery of the Resurrection is, to modern society, one of the most incomprehensible mysteries of Christianity. Modern society can understand the joy of Christmas, for the birth of Christ is easily analogous to our experience of beginnings, and appeals to our love of all things young and new and innocent. Even the Crucifixion, that stumbling-block and contradiction, can be understood as an expression of love in its highest, most sublime form–a love that gives without question and without reserve, the kind of love we immortalize even as we fall short of living it.

But the Resurrection of Our Lord? It seems to violate our apparent experiences, our empiricist prejudices–for we know, or think we know, that what is dead cannot live anew, that what is lost is lost forever. We view life as a series of fleeting, dying instants, a Heraclitean journey within a Heisenberg universe. We live one moment, and it is gone; the stream we pass through is never the same one to which we return. In the words of Pedro Calderon de la Barca, la vida es sueño, y los sueños, sueños son. “Life is but a dream, and dreams are but dreams.”*

Yet I think this prejudice against renewed life is but the result of the limitations of our experiences as an urbanized society of  individuals increasingly isolated from God, nature, society, and ourselves. In contrast, the ancients–except for St. Paul’s urbanely skeptical Areopagites–seems to have had less trouble with the idea of Resurrection because they retained the primeval closeness with nature; and nature is literally brimming with prophecies of the Easter mystery.  As the John Henry Newman pointed out in his homily “The Second Spring“,

“WE have familiar experience of the order, the constancy, the perpetual renovation of the material world which surrounds us. Frail and transitory as is every part of it, restless and migratory as are its elements, never-ceasing as are its changes, still it abides. It is bound together by a law of permanence, it is set up in unity; and, though it is ever dying, it is ever coming to life again. Dissolution does but give birth to fresh modes of organization, and one death is the parent of a thousand lives. Each hour, as it comes, is but a testimony, how fleeting, yet how secure, how certain, is the great whole. It is like an image on the waters, which is ever the same, though the waters ever flow…”**

The one true Church proclaims Christ as the Divine logos and Firstborn of all creation; and so, as C.S. Lewis wrote in his essay on Miracles, we see in the phenomena of nature so many anticipations and expressions of His life, death and resurrection. Little wonder that all the world before modern times found the Resurrection and its analogues so easy to integrate into their respective beliefs, for God makes creation preambula fidei, a general revelation and of His love and His promise–that He will give His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, receives Him and perseveres in Him may have everlasting life.***

We moderns fail to see all this because have so divorced ourselves from creation that (as explained by Carolyn Merchant in her eco-feminist essay The Death of Nature) we have even replaced the organic cosmology of the Ancients and the Medieval Latins with a mechanistic view of the world. We thus treat nature as a thing to be exploited and otherwise ignored rather than as a revelation of the invisible things of God, a mysterion worthy of reverent contemplation, which declares His glory and proclaims His handiwork.

But a way is opened even by mechanistic science, which shows us that the breakdown and decomposition of one thing is but the birth of another. The U-235 atom breaks up, and the fruit is Krypton and Barium and electromagnetic quanta (or waves, depending on your perspective); the sugars we imbibe are broken down into sources of chemical energy for forming proteins, the bricks that effectively make up our bodies. From the organisms that produce nitrates to the debris of a supernova, life is crucified and in dying makes new life, ever singing in a different way the joyful cry of the Easter liturgy: The Lord is Risen!

“Change upon change—yet one change cries out to another, like the alternate Seraphim, in praise and in glory of their Maker. The sun sinks to rise again; the day is swallowed up in the gloom of the night, to be born out of it, as fresh as if it had never been quenched. Spring passes into summer, and through summer and autumn into winter, only the more surely, by its own ultimate return, to triumph over that grave, towards which it resolutely hastened from its first hour…” (John Henry Newman)**

Christ is Lord and God, and He is truly risen! And His Resurrection is both promise and fulfillment: It is His guarantee that we who live His truth and love even unto the Cross will share His new life; and it is itself His new life being shared with us through the sacraments of His Church, which is the body and fullness of Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:23). Thus, with groans too deep for words, all creation declares that the world is being made new, as we are being made new, because

“Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will return in glory!”

He has risen! Alleluiah! Alleluiah! And happy Easter to all!

*La vida es sueño, Act II. The quoted line is from Wikipedia, corrected according to the online text on Ciudad Seva.  The translation is likewise from Wikipedia.

**The quotations from John Henry Newman‘s homily “The Second Spring” are from the online text on Newman Reader.org.

***Believes in, St. John 3:16; receives, St. John 6:51; perseveres, St. Matthew 24:13.

N.B., All quotations are made in a manner that this blogger believes is consistent with fair use.  Should the blogger be in error, or if it is otherwise necessary to remove the texts, please notify the blogger immediately by comment or by email that the offending passages may be taken down.

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