It has been hard this week to ferret out the audible signs of Resurrection! People I love are in pain from illness, loss, and grief. The Big Picture–world peace! political fragmentation! callous indifference to pain and oppression! systemic dysfunction and venality!– leaves my eyes “astygmatized,” my ears straining, when I am searching for new life and hope and joy.
I remember a passage from Roberta Bondi, now Professor Emeritus of Church History, from Candler School of Theology, in her biographical reflection on Christian theology, Memories of God, as she struggles with the resurrection, both the tenet itself and its operational presence in her own life’s struggle with depression. In deep despair she gives up her personal struggle on the eve of what she had hoped what would be a great celebration. And then somehow from within her depths, she recalled the words of the Roman Catholic eucharistic liturgy for Easter: “The joy of the Resurrection renews the whole world!” and she knew it to be true for her and for the world. She began to repeat it for herself and for the world as she experienced it, and it began to clear away the fog of sadness and grief that covered her and allowed her to see that the Resurrection is a cosmic process that Christ brought and is bringing to God’s creation.
I let that Word be a challenge to me! I begin to listen more deeply, to look more closely. I remember the pictures of the hillside of a favorite recreation spot of my earlier life, Griffith Park in Los Angeles, between Dodger Stadium and the Zoo, parts of which had been destroyed in a pernicious wildfire several years back. The sooty ruin and ashy residue was still plain to see, but underneath them in the the spring came wildflowers bursting forth anew. “The joy of the Resurrection renews the whole world!” I return to my listening for evidence of the Resurrection in the lives of those I encounter and in the world. And sure enough, I hear them: someone who feels beleaguered and hopeless is able to reframe her vision to see a way where there is no way; another turns his vision from his depths to his True North, to follow the Light that he trusts and knows is there; a congregation that understood itself to be on life support for its last days is suddenly blessed with new leadership, full of hope and vision.“The joy of the Resurrection renews the whole world!”
For myself there are externals in my milieu that on the worst days of anticipatory dread feel like nightmares in my closet. But I am determined to carry the banner of the joy of the Resurrection into them: what is the next right thing I am called to do? what one thing is necessary to be done in beauty? where can I walk in order to be a bringer of joy? how can I replace that specter of past failure and future defeat with trust in the grace and renewal of the Resurrection to be joy in the world and in me? I am practicing. And I am listening. And I am looking. And I am hoping.
I go today to celebrate Easter dinner with my family. On the calendar Easter day this year, the whole young family went down like dominos with the flu and my husband was in deepest jet lag from his sojourn returning from Nairobi, so Quiet Easter it was, indeed! But today the celebration continues in Eastertide: bright flowers, pretty clothes, delicious food, gifts of joy, all in service of celebrating that in the Risen Christ there are no final defeats, even in small families and hearts. I am so grateful to Roberta Bondi for sharing her sojourn, for the ancient Church that gives us the words for the Mystery: “The joy of the Resurrection renews the whole world!”