~ The Paschal Mystery ~
In the depths of the Christian Gospel and experience lies the Paschal Mystery. In the Greek, Syriac and Latin, pascha means suffering. The jubilant celebration of Easter Sunday, of the resurrection of the Paschal Lamb, is only the beginning of a season of personal and communal feasting in the mystery whose end is marked by the Pentecost.
For Christ, as is the case for us, there is no resurrection or rebirth without death and its shadows of suffering in the wounded life that precedes it. In the stillness of contemplative prayer, can we not hear the paschal cries of love and anguish?
I lovingly created you in the perfection of my own likeness. I made a paradise to fill you with joy and delighted in walking with you in its splendor, wrapping you in my own glory. But you wanted more and took it, then hid from me in shame. Was I not enough for you?
I made my Presence obvious to you, in fire, clouds of glory, signs of wonder. I pursued you still, telling you I am your God. But you made your own gods, and ignored me for those gods that couldn't hear you, talk to you, or love you.
I became you, since you abandoned embracing your likeness of me. I walked again among you, healing you, feeding you, promising a restoration of paradise and my perfection in you. But you prepared the executioner's cross for me.
I told you I didn't come to condemn you in the heavens. But you condemned me in your courts.
I came to crown you with my glory again. But you crowned me with thorns. I scourged evil in your land with my power and love. But you scourged me with iron laced whips.
I offered you living water. But you offered me vinegar.
I washed your feet in love and servitude. But you fought over grabbling the highest positions in my kingdom.
I was near death for you in prayer, asking you to just keep vigil with me. But you slept.
I lifted you into the very Truth, Way and Life. But you lifted me on that cross.
I allowed you to do that, for it was necessary for you. I sent you my Spirit to live in you. But in your preference for other gods again, you made no room for me.
I call you to be all one in my love. In that oneness you can be transformed to my likeness again. But you continue to argue, fight and kill. Whatever you do to each other, you do to me. But you don't care about each other and curse my name.
My children, I am your God. I emptied myself for you. What more can I do for you? Is there something I haven't yet done for you? Have I hurt or offended you? I’m still here, knocking on your door. I want you to rest in forgiveness and feast at my table again. Must I knock harder? Must I cry louder, for you to embrace my call to leave all your dead gods behind and let me gather you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing?
I have told you, no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined, the things I have prepared for you who love me.
Therefore my prophet, Habakkuk, proclaimed, "Even if the fig tree does not bloom, and the vines have no grapes, even if the olive tree fails to produce and the fields yield no food, even if the sheep pen is empty and the stalk have no cattle - even then, I will be happy with the Lord. I will truly find joy in God, who saves me. The Lord Almighty is my strength. He makes my feet like those of a deer. He makes me walk on the mountains."
The crucifixion, resurrection, ascension of Christ and the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit are historical events, the kairos of God into human time. However, to celebrate this mystery as history is to archive it in a museum to be gazed as a relic of some past era. It is safe there, memorable but unchallenging. Relics and artifacts behind glass don't call us into transformation. "Trans" means to enter the mystery. Figures that are transfigured, forms that that are transformed, appearances that are transparent, precedences that are transcendent, luminescence that is translucent, latency that is translated, call us into a living reality, a mystery burning with life and a pulsating heart that penetrates our own.
Believing in the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ is not redemptive. The Scriptures speak of the Paschal Mystery both historically and out of the realm of time. They proclaim that the Paschal Lamb was slain before time began…that we are being crucified with Christ today, that we suffer with Him now, that whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we are now doing to Him, that He lives in us and we live in Him today. The Pentecost of history is happening today as people's souls are being crucified with Christ and reborn in His Holy Spirit here on earth.
The heart of our jubilant celebration of supreme wonder and gratitude is not in an event of 2000 years past. We are in the Paschal Mystery now! "Now is the day of salvation!" The passion of our Lord burns within us now. The resurrection of our spirits in Christ and the ongoing metanoia of Christlikeness is happening as I write this and as you read it.
Tombs are made to be filled with the decay of death. Empty, they are useless, waiting to be made useful. The massive stone door of Christ's tomb wasn't moved so He could get out. The resurrected Christ would appear and disappear, would form and transform, no longer in the bondage of physical matter or death. The massive stone was moved so we could go in. We can go into the empty tomb to experience the uselessness of its emptiness. We could hide there safely and make it our home, like Elijah once did in a cave. And like Elijah, maybe we'll pay attention to God's question, "What are you doing here?" Didn't the angel ask the same question of Mary who came looking for the relic of a living God?
We are invited to leave
the empty tomb and make it useless again; to walk into the garden at dawn
and look upon the face of our Lord in jubilation. The holiest of dawns,
the most sacred of moments, worth celebrating in great joy. And we can
do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and forever!
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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Weekly Reflections © March 30, 2002
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