And so it is Easter, Resurrection Sunday. All over the world Christians are celebrating the risen Christ. Today also concludes my annual Forty Days writings. This has been a different year. It began in February, as we in the US distantly experienced a serious viral illness plaguing people far away from us and ends here in April, with all of us in the US experiencing shelter-in-place separation from one another. These are indeed odd times, and yet, as I wrote in this post from April 2018, we rise. I thank each of you who has been with me for these 40 days, for steadfastly reading and reflecting on these words. Please enjoy one more posting. He is risen, Alleluia!
Forty Days Revisited, Day 40–You Can Say That Again (We Rise)
I grew up Catholic. As a child I wondered why we couldn’t say “alleluia” during Lent. As I got older, I came to understand that this prohibition is one of many acknowledgments of the solemnity of the Lenten season, that it is a time of fasting, prayer, reflection, and various forms of sacrifice. One of those forms, firmly in place all around the world is the fasting from saying the word, “alleluia.” I was so happy when Easter came, not because of egg hunts and decorating eggs (which we rarely did) or wearing fancy clothes, complete with hats and dresses and white anklet socks with ruffles and patent leather shoes. (God am I glad those days are over.) The good news is: these 40 days are over and today you can say again what you could not say yesterday: “Christ is risen, alleluia, alleluia.”
I used to sing “alleluia” on Easter Sunday with the same gusto as I used to bellow, “Crucify him!” two days earlier at Good Friday services. It was all the same to me back then. So after 40-plus days of giving up chocolate and bear and meat on Fridays and not saying alleluia, today is the day you can knock yourself out and do all those things. Of course, I say this all tongue-in-cheek, which seems somewhat sacrilegious on this holy day of resurrection.
So let me shift gears and title the rest of this blog as I decided to later: We Rise.
On that day, the third day, Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary (who some say Jesus’s aunt–sister to his mother ) were heading to the tomb. When they got there, the stone had been rolled back from the grave. In one account (Matthew 28), a being of light is sitting on top of the stone, ostensibly waiting to report to whichever of Jesus’s followers showed up, that Jesus was no longer in repose in the tomb. In another( Luke 24), two beings of light join the two Marys who had already entered the tomb to likewise report that Jesus was not there. In both accounts, the angels delivered essentially the same message: He isn’t here.
Different translations exist of these words. I love what the angel in this particular version (Matthew 28) is purported to have said: “He is not here. He is risen, just as he said he would.” I also love the question posed by the angels in Luke’s version: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Very practical question, unless you consider the ramifications of it.
Just two days earlier they had washed, anointed, and wrapped Jesus’s shredded, battered, and wrapped his decidedly dead body in burial cloths. At that time, so engrossed were they in their task and enveloped in their numbed grief, they did not contemplate the notion that he would rise and return to walk among the living. And now here was this being, too bright to even look at, telling them that the body was no longer there. It even invited them to look for themselves, “Come over and see where he had lain.” After their shock at the whole thing had begun to diminish sufficiently enough for them to move, they took off running to tell the disciples.
The translation of this passage is important. The one I prefer says, “He is risen,” while others declare “He has risen.” He has risen which is a stated action of something that he did, while “He is risen,” is a statement of being, of his present condition. I saw other translations that said, “He has been raised,” which took the entire thing out of his hands, like it was something done to him, rather than something that he did himself. It might be obvious here that I much prefer, “He is risen.” It would be like saying someone is awesome (something that they inherently are) or “they have awesomeness,” (which no one would say, but you get the point.) One says that’s what they are at their core, the other says that’s a quality that they possess, but that might be temporary.
And so, as we wind down these 40 days, I want to add a few thoughts to those I shared yesterday, when I wrote about how we wait after the death of a loved one:
“For we who wait after the deaths of our loved ones, there is no predicted resurrection. We know they will not come back in three days as if they went on long trip from which they would return. ”
I realized something when I woke on this “resurrection morning,” no matter what has preceded the previous night, each morning it is we who rise. We rise the next morning after the death of a loved one. We rise after we’ve fallen or been struck down by an unexpected physical or emotional blow. We rise the day after a victory just as we would after a defeat. Whether it is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, we rise. It has been so, and so it will continue to be. We might not quite be at “I am risen,” as a state of being, or we might be and I simply can’t picture what that looks like. But we can and do rise according to our natures and according to the laws of physics.
So while a physical body is seemingly incapable of appearing to rise after it has ceased to function (that is, it is dead), the spiritual body has and is risen. Our loved ones–my mother and father, others who have gone invisible oh so many years ago–perhaps are indeed risen and walking amongst us in some realm which our three-dimensional physical selves cannot detect. We may not see them, but they are risen. We too rise. And so it goes.
Deep bows of gratitude to everyone who has been on part or all of this Lenten journey with me. I do not know what the future holds in terms of what will happen next year–if I have another 40 days in me–but that is not important at this time. What is important is that we live in this moment as best we can, that we are present to the people and world around us right now, and that as needed, and when it is called for, we rise.