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On resurrection

14 May 2011

This year has been difficult. I moved 16 hours away from everyone and everywhere I have ever known to a place where I knew no one. I came into a job that ultimately became the first thing I set my mind to and failed at. There have been moments of heartbreak and loneliness on a level I had never really experienced. The weather took its toll on my sanity. My aspirations of a year of vocational discernment, spiritual work, and real hands-on service were proven naïve, as I am less sure of my future, numbed spiritually, and as far removed from justice as seems possible.

None of this, however, compares with last week. A close family friend, someone with whom my parents grew up and with whose children I grew up, died suddenly. I needed to be there, for my family and for hers, but I couldn’t get back. I was 937 miles away from where I needed to be and there was no way for me to come back. During the hour of her funeral, I prayed the Burial rite out of the Book of Common Prayer, just to give myself something to do to acknowledge the moment. That is the point of ritual, after all: to give us something to do during the major transitions of life. I, however, felt numb. It was not enough. My words floating off into the air did not equate with hugging my mother or my friends who had lost theirs.

I told one of my friends what was going on and the conversation eventually ended up talking about the liturgical year. I told her that I simply could not get to the Easter Sunday part of story; I was stuck in Holy Saturday, in shock and separated from those to whom I should have been near. I just could not see resurrection in this tragedy, despite the fact that the Church is in the midst of its fifty-day long celebration of Easter. It seems wrong to be mourning a death while I celebrate Christ’s rising from death. She told me about friends for whom celebrating Christmas feels fracturing when they are about the yearly remembrance of their loved ones’ passing. The underlying question in our conversation was if the celebration of the liturgical year is really appropriate when it can be so distancing for those in these fragile situations.

After some reflection, however, I have to say that these kind of fracturing situations may actually be some of the best opportunities for grace the Church has to offer. A central mystery of Christianity is its insistence upon resurrection in the face of death. Christ’s physical resurrection (regardless of whether or not you see it as historical or metaphorical) is—like the rest of his life—a presentation of the nature of God, of the source “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17.28). Yes, there is death; yes, there is suffering; but this is not the end, though all appearances may point to the contrary. “All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (BCP 499).

At every Eucharist, even those in Lent when our focus is on our own mortality, we celebrate the Resurrection; even on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, when the Eucharist is not celebrated, we proclaim Christ’s resurrection. In those celebrations and proclamations, it is not only Christ’s but our own resurrection that we proclaim. Not only from death, but from everything that troubles the heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit. We may not know how, but even in the midst of death, Christianity proclaims life, and life abundant.

I am still struggling to see the grace in the midst of my family friend’s death. I am still struggling to see the grace in this year of difficulty. The prospect of seeking hope in all of this disappointment and heartbreak seems absurd. But, doubting Thomas that I am, I know that my redeemer lives. Looking backwards on my own life, on trials far larger than these, I can see him brightly shining through in every second of every day, creating new life where hardship had left nothing but death. Even during Easter, death can emerge; but even on Good Friday, resurrection happens.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 14 May 2011 20:20

    Great post – honest and heart-felt. It gave meaning to the liturgy and to our struggles, hardships, and doubts.

  2. Lee Thomas permalink
    15 May 2011 19:10

    Caught this on the fly early this morning, and have been thinking and praying all day… especially as we sang the offertory, _Surrexit pastor bonus_. I rest in the knowledge that That Great Shepherd of the sheep will bring peace and comfort to you and yours. And thank you for the Resurrection light in which you cast your grief. Private message to follow.

  3. 18 May 2011 06:19

    I am sorry to read of your loss. God be with you.

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