“In contemplation God teaches the soul very quietly and secretly, without its knowing how, without the sound of words” (Chapter 39, The Spiritual Canticle).
In the spirit of St. John of the Cross, this blog reflects on the contemplative experience and the poetic experience, sometimes separately and distinctly, sometimes in common, as mutually enlightening.
I will also post to this blog, from time to time, my own poetry, with a short interpretive note attached.
~ Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
Reflections on Holy Week – Part 2 of 4
Fri, May 10 2019
|Image by StockSnap from Pixabay|
What happened to Jesus’ body after his crucifixion? The gospel speaks of resurrection, of his being raised from the dead. That’s the word we Christians use, referring to a transcendent, divine victory over death.
Jesus is here with us. He is here in his body, his humanity, his historical self. He is here in his active and saving presence—his mission and cause. But he is here as raised from the dead.
Yes, he is here in our midst, in our lives and communities, our history, just as you and I are, bodily. But the difference—his being raised from the dead—has something to do with his being here in victorious divine transcendence. Perhaps we could say, to keep the expression compact, that he’s here “from the other side of death.”
“The other side of death” is a metaphor, of course, a spacial one. It’s as if Jesus (in his body, his presence) had gone off to some other place, to some other world or realm. He was secreted away to some other dimension or higher plane of being, physically abducted by God, so to speak, there to undergo a metamorphosis or apotheosis. And from there he was allowed, sort of, to return to us for a time and be seen by the apostles before his second ascension into this higher realm.
Of course, we don’t have to think this way about it. It’s the resurrection story told in Luke/Acts. But despite the fact that it’s kind of traditional, we’re not bound to it. It’s one, but only one, way of thinking about or imagining resurrection.
We might say, for example, that Jesus survived death by passing through it and beyond as if through a door. Passage through death is a kind of obstacle course, say, and Jesus successfully negotiated it. Then he returned to tell us about it and lead us through it for ourselves. This is a story closer to how John lays it out for us.
But isn’t death the very last thing, more like a wall than a door? Or, if like a door, then one with a stone rolled in front of it, sealing it shut? This metaphor seems to be the deep symbolism of the empty tomb story—the story that comprises the whole of Mark’s version of the resurrection story.
Humanly speaking, death is indeed the end, the moment when life slips from our grasp, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Powerlessness reveals itself fully in each one of us, and all we can do is surrender ourselves to it. I am handed over to death—just as we say of Jesus, that he was handed over to those intent on killing him. He freely entered his Passion, which became his hour of passivity.
Of course, being handed over to death and its finality means that I am handed over not just in my isolated self. I am handed over in my whole life, my life’s work, its meaning, its meaninglessness, its failures and successes, joys, sorrows, blessings, and regrets. My whole worldly presence is handed over—which is to say, my part, the place I’ve occupied, for good or ill, and all places in-between, in this world.
Written by Fr. Bonaventure, OCD