With groans too deep for words, all creation declares that the world is being made new… (Reposted from our earlier post)
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 scientific prejudices–for we know, or think we know, that what is dead cannot live anew, that what is lost is lost forever. We live one moment, and it is gone; the stream we pass through is never the same one to which we return. Our experience of life is that it is a series of fleeting, dying instants, a Heraclitean journey within a Heisenberg universe. As Pedro Calderon de la Barca once wrote, “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. 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.
“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…” (John Henry Newman, “The Second Spring“, from Newman Reader.org)
The 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 gives creation as a general revelation and preparatio evangelica of His love and His promise: that He will give His only Son, and whoever believes in Him shall 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 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 that 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. We mourn over the blossoms of May, because they are to wither; but we know, withal, that May is one day to have its revenge upon November, by the revolution of that solemn circle which never stops—which teaches us in our height of hope, ever to be sober, and in our depth of desolation, never to despair.” (John Henry Newman, “The Second Spring“, from Newman Reader.org)
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 His new life that we share when, baptized into His body (1 Corinthians 12:13), we join the communion of grace that is the Church, the fullness of the Risen 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!