Sunday, April 4, 2021

#94 / The Strangeness Of Easter


Christmas, as a Christian holiday, is founded upon an event that is normal, expected, usual, and within the experience of almost everyone, either directly or indirectly. There is nothing really "strange" about the birth of a child. 
While the circumstances that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, and to the manger, were dramatic and outside the typical experience of most of us, and while the angels and the shepherds and the Three Wise Men were certainly not normal or expected as attendants upon a typical birth, and while the assertion that Mary was a virgin definitely puts the Christmas story outside the bounds of any normal human experience, the basic facts about Christmas were that a mother gave birth to a child. 
Other claims associated with Christmas might be discounted, but there was certainly nothing about the fact of that Mary gave birth to Jesus that suggested that this event, in and of itself, was "strange," or impossible, or a scandal to our human understanding of the nature of reality.

This is not so with respect to Easter, the Christian holiday that is being celebrated today, because the Easter story asserts that the baby born on Christmas (normal enough) after living and preaching for thirty-three years, was crucified, dead and buried, yet rose from the dead and was restored to a human body, as a sign to us all. 
There is nothing "normal," whatsoever, about the Easter story!
Robert Barron, who is auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and who is the founder of the Catholic ministerial organization Word on Fire, has written a reflection on Easter, published in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, that makes very clear how much Easter deserves to be understood in all its "strangeness." Bishop Barron's article is titled, "Recovering the Strangeness of Easter," and is subtitled, "For Christians, the holiday is about recapturing the surprise and excitement that the Resurrection brought to Jesus' first followers."
Particularly for Christians, this article is worthwhile reading, and given the fact that The Wall Street Journal may block non-subscribers who click on the link above, interested readers can click right here for an alternative route to read what Bishop Barron has to say.

Since I was raised as a Christian, and even attended theological seminary after graduating from law school, the Easter story is well-known to me. But as a corollary to its familiarity, perhaps it has been all too easy for me to acknowledge the elements of the story and then to return to a more "normal" life and thought. I appreciated the Bishop's successful effort to reawaken in me a realization of the compelling "strangeness" of Easter and the Easter story. 
For those who are not Christians, who might seek something in the Easter story by way of metaphor, the article is valuable, as well. The thoughtful among us know that our world aches for transformation, for radical transformation. Continuing on our current path is leading us all, and all of the natural world, towards death, and terrible perils lie ahead. To cite to Bob Dylan, often a source of insight, let me remind you of these words from his song, Precious Angel

My so-called friends have fallen under a spell
They look me squarely in the eye and they say, “All is well”
Can they imagine the darkness that will fall from on high
When men will beg God to kill them and they won’t be able to die?
When I wrote about "Collapsology," last August, and wrote about an article by Chris Hedges, just a few days ago, I was thinking about exactly the kind of human circumstances that Dylan is prophesying in his song. 

We need to act. We need to change virtually everything about the way we live. Is that even possible? 
It is. Easter says it is.
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