Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. [Mark 16:1-8]


It is remarkable. Not that a body disappeared. But that Mark would announce the resurrection, and end his book, with terror-awe and silence. Revealed is not the treasure of risen life, but the emptiness of a tomb which could not stomach death.

Most scholarly opinion believes that Mark was writing during or just after the rebellion of 66-70 CE, which resulted in the devastation of Palestine and the destruction of the Jewish Temple by Rome. The signs of resurrection must have been... difficult to experience, and puzzling to discern.

Perhaps it has always been so. When you are in the grip of death, of oppression, of forces which seek your capitulation or destruction, it is difficult to think "outside the box" of those prison-tombs.

And yet - there is Jesus. Once again, God is not in the place we expect.

Christ is risen! Alleluia! To find him, now go where he has sent you.

Fra Angelico, Resurrection, 1440-41, Convento di San Marco, Florence.
 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday

The day between Good Friday and Easter does not get much attention. Seemingly, nothing happens. The gospel texts lay Jesus in the tomb before the sundown beginning the sabbath. And then, nothing until morning of the following day.

Tradition has filled in the gap, having Jesus descend to the dead, breaking open the gates of hell, and bringing his resurrection to the righteous dead of earlier generations.

It is also a day for churches to be busy with preparations for the Resurrection celebration of the vigil service or Sunday morning.

But that day after his death, Holy Saturday, deserves its own place. It is a time where one thing has ended, and the new thing that is to follow is not yet visible. "A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how" [Mark 4:26b-27]. Buried in the earth, out of sight, under the radar a holy mystery is taking place.

In the "real world," his followers are observing the sabbath and passover. They are hiding from the authorities. They are disturbed and what has happened, the way their teacher and friend is gone, the way their plans and hopes have died. Some are distraught, some are guilty, some are trying to figure out how to rebound - or put this behind. The God who did not answer Jesus' cry - "My God, why have you forsaken me" - is no more visible this day.

Yet God's presence is as hard to fathom this day as it was yesterday, and God's story is not done. Somewhere, deep in the tomb's darkness, the faithfulness of God is undimmed.


Photos: RazorCD, Extinguished candle (detail) and Dr. Alzheimer's Photo Blog, Kerze.
 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

We pray to you this day mindful of the sorry confusion of our world.

Look with mercy upon this generation of your children, so steeped in misery of their own contriving, so far strayed from your ways and so blinded by passions.

We pray for the victims of tyranny, that they might resist oppression with courage and may preserve their integrity by a hope which defies the terror of the moment.

We pray for wicked and cruel men, whose arrogance reveals to us what the sin of our own hearts is like when it has conceived and brought forth its final fruit.

O God, who resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, bring down the mighty from their seats.

Excerpt from a prayer by Reinhold Neibuhr. Artwork by Edward Boccia, Stations of the Cross - Station XII Jesus Dies on the Cross (1964).
 

Friday, April 3, 2009

Prayer for Binghamton

Kyrie eleison – Lord have mercy;
Christe eleison – Christ have mercy;
Kyrie eleison – Lord have mercy.

Like most acts of violence there are likely many strands which came together to produce today's massacre.

It is tragically easy to find a scapegoat. But there has never been a scapegoat that deserved the weight of all the sins cast upon them.

O God, you came among us and suffered the pain of violence and the loss of your life. Have mercy upon our fallen world. Receive the dead into your care. Lay your healing hand upon the wounded and suffering. And bring forth compassion and mercy among your people, that violence be met with love, and that which is senseless may bring forth better understanding among your people. Amen.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke - People embrace outside a Catholic Charities office where counselors tend to relatives of victims of the shooting in Binghamton N.Y., Friday, April 3, 2009.
 

Hosanna

This Sunday is Palm Sunday - the last Sunday in Lent and the entrance into Holy Week. For centuries, Christians have turned again and again to the story of Jesus' Passion.

This story exposes the work of sin which condemns righteousness to death, makes sacrificial offering of others, and leaves a trail of broken bodies. And this story also reveals God's mysterious work of salvation, realized in forgiveness, self-giving love, and the breaking of bread.

Come - let us turn our hearts to the mystery of Holy Week and the victory of God. The shouts of "Hosanna!" which Christians so often hear as triumphal hope, actually means "Please save!" or "Save now!" One of the roots of Christian praise is in our experience of God as savior. And, regardless of nuance, our approach to God is always connected with our need - to be made whole, for forgiveness, for deliverance.

As we draw near to Jerusalem, as we prepare to ascend to the place of pilgrimage, let us pray.

O God, you came among us to proclaim the good news of our salvation. Yet we have been listening to other programming, and lack eyes to see and ears to hear the signs of your kingdom. Help us this week to turn to your Passion, that by drawing near to your holy Mysteries, we might let the same mind be in us that is in Christ Jesus. Grant that this day and this week we may partake of your glory by taking on the divine humility revealed to us in Jesus, to whom we are bold to cry Hosanna! Save us!