Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Resurrection is Never Separated From the Cross

Easter visits us now while our concerns increase, our fears grow greater, destruction expands, evil intensifies and killing is everywhere and at all times. How can we celebrate the resurrection while our country is doomed, the number of hungry and displaced people is increasing? How can we live the resurrection when the cross is always present?

This is the mystery of Christ: “Through the cross joy came to the whole world.” There, where the Cross is, true resurrection is found too. Otherwise Pascha would only be mere poetry and chanting. The world does not like the cross. It seeks to abolish it, while it is surrounded by crosses on all sides. True believers would never have these crosses out of sight; they face them with the spirit of resurrection...

2013 Paschal Letter of His Beatitude, John X Patriarch of Antioch

In liturgical time, it is Pascha, it is Bright Week and "All is filled with Joy: heaven and earth and the deepest parts of the sea."  Yet the cross is not far away.  In the time of our everyday lives, crosses are all around us.  We ourselves, even as we liturgically celebrate Resurrection, may be suffering in a Garden of Gethsemane or even on a cross.  Or if not ourselves, we may be standing--like the Myrrh Bearing women and Beloved John--at the foot of the cross of another.  With them, we may be shedding tears and asking God, Why?  

This is the mystery of Christ, our Patriarch tells us.  The mystery of Christ is that through the Cross, joy came to the whole world....Otherwise Pascha would be mere poetry and chanting.  And this is, perhaps, why we have liturgical time.  We celebrate liturgically all of the events and aspects of our salvation because--were it merely up to our own experience in time--we might never remember Pascha and fall into despair; or we might in good times forget the cross, forgetting how God has loved us and how we ought to love our neighbor.  

There are times when I am tempted to anger.  I am tempted to be angry at God that the cross is necessary, that the Mystery of Resurrection is hidden in the cross.  But this happens less and less these days.  How can I be angry at God for what I myself have caused, for what I continue to promote through selfishness, willful ignorance and pride?  No, the cross and death, confusion and stupidity, pride and ignorance, all of these are my doing--my doing and the doing of all of humanity.  

But we have not been left alone.  God has come to us.  God has made a way out for us, a way that transforms what was merely death.  What was once merely the unavoidable end is now the doorway to a new and eternal life.  And the Good News doesn't stop there.  We don't have to wait until we die.  We don't have to wait until the next life to begin living the new eternal life.  Even as we die, yet we live!

This is a large part of what the liturgy of the Church is about.  Through the liturgical cycle of the year, through the prayers and the disciplines, through the incense and icons and candles and services in the middle of the night: through all of these the Church trains us to attend.  The Church helps us know and experience the new eternal life that is already ours even as we live and love and struggle in these bodies of death.  

"Christ is Risen" is no mere poetic wish.  "Christ is Risen" is the experience of the Church.  Yes, it is a mystical and paradoxical experience, but it is an experience that grows and removes from death its sting and from the grave its victory.

Thus the Christian mourns death--but not as one without hope.  Thus we die daily, but as often as we fall we rise again.  Thus we affirm what we know, even as we weep, even as we doubt, even as we wonder why: Christ is Risen.  Truly He is Risen!

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