Thinking Resurrection, Seeing Resurrection

Thinking Resurrection, Seeing Resurrection March 19, 2018

It’s Lent but our text in 1 Clement turns us toward Easter, so during Lent let us pause to consider how we might think and see resurrection as the end of our Lenten season.

photo-1462747772350-460bb4aad7f4_optOur series on the Friday With Our Fathers (FWOF) uses for its text Michael Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers.

God, Clement teaches the divided Christians in Corinth, reveals resurrection in a variety of ways, and it is ours to have eyes to see. One can say that Clement exhibits a kind of iconic theology in nature. Which reminds me of Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of the World(A brilliant book, by the way.) It is the “Master” who “continually points out” (epideiknumi) the “coming resurrection.” God, he is saying, has done this in creation.

1Clem. 24:1    Let us consider, dear friends, how the Master continually points out to us the coming resurrection of which he made the Lord Jesus Christ the first fruit when he raised him from the dead. 

How so? Day and night. Seeds die and come back to life and bring fruit. In 25 he turns to the Phoenix, or to the myth of the phoenix bird that lives 500 years and then dies and a new birth occurs — and the new birth offers the bones to the Sun god.

2 Let us observe, dear friends, the resurrection that regularly occurs.  3 Day and night show us the resurrection: the night falls asleep, and day arises; the day departs, and night returns.  4 Let us take as an example the crops: how and in what manner does the sowing take place?  5 The sower went forth and cast into the earth each of the seeds. These seeds, falling to the earth dry and bare, decay; but then out of their decay the majesty of the Master’s providence raises them up, and from the one seed many grow and bear fruit.

1Clem. 25:1    Let us observe the remarkable sign that is seen in the regions of the east, that is, in the vicinity of Arabia.  2 There is a bird that is named the phoenix. This bird, the only one of its species, lives for five hundred years. When the time of its dissolution and death arrives, it makes for itself a coffin-like nest of frankincense and myrrh and the other spices, into which, its time being completed, it enters and dies.  3 But as the flesh decays, a certain worm is born, which is nourished by the juices of the dead bird and eventually grows wings. Then, when it has grown strong, it takes up that coffin-like nest containing the bones of its parent, and carrying them away, it makes its way from the country of Arabia to Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis.  4 There, in broad daylight, in the sight of all, it flies to the altar of the sun and deposits them there, and then it sets out on its return.  5 The priests then examine the public records of the times, and they find that it has come at the end of the five hundredth year.

If these happen, so the resurrection of the body is reasonable. An argument from lesser to great, then, is his basis for confidence in the resurrection for those “who have served him in holiness” and “in the assurance born of a good faith.”

1Clem. 26:1    How, then, can we consider it to be some great and marvelous thing, if the Creator of the universe shall bring about the resurrection of those who have served him in holiness, in the assurance born of a good faith, when he shows us—by a bird, no less— the magnificence of his promise?  2 For it says somewhere: “And you will raise me up, and I will praise you”; and, “I lay down and slept; I rose up, for you are with me.”  3 And again Job says: “And you will raise this flesh of mine, which has endured all these things.”

Clement now pulls these ideas into an exhortation. If there is a resurrection, if there is a judgment, then we need to live in light of them. All creation sings his glory so therefore “let faith in God be rekindled within us” (27:3). Rekindled could be translated set on fire or “let the fire come to life all over again.”

1Clem. 27:1    With this hope, therefore, let our souls be bound to the one who is faithful in his promises and righteous in his judgments.  2 The one who commanded us not to lie all the more will not lie himself, for nothing is impossible with God, except to lie.  3 Therefore let faith in him be rekindled within us, and let us understand that all things are near to him.  4 By his majestic word he established the universe, and by a word he can destroy it.  5 “Who will say to him, ‘What have you done?’ Or who will resist the might of his strength?” He will do all things when he wills and as he wills, and none of those things decreed by him will fail.  6 All things are in his sight, and nothing escapes his will,  7 seeing that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day pours forth speech to day, and night proclaims knowledge to night; and there are no words or speeches whose voices are not heard.”

His first rhetorical exhortation was for a rekindling; he turns more directly to his concerns in chp. 28. Fear God, abandon “abominable lusts” (these “desires” or “lusts” may well be the desire to divide and conquer), and know that God is the judge and God sees all.

1Clem. 28:1    Since, therefore, all things are seen and heard, let us fear him and abandon the abominable lusts that spawn evil works, in order that we may be shielded by his mercy from the coming judgments.  2 For where can any of us escape from his mighty hand? And what world will receive any of those who desert him? For the scripture says somewhere:  3 “Where shall I go, and where shall I be hidden from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I depart to the ends of the earth, there is your right hand; if I make my bed in the depths, there is your Spirit.”  4 Where, then, can one go, or where can one flee from the one who embraces the universe?

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