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Posts Tagged ‘Resurrection’

Erik_Erikson“Erik Erikson” by ?Original uploader was Waveformula at en.wikipedia – http://www.wpclipart.com/famous/psychology/Erik_Erikson_2.png.htmlTransferred from en.wikipediaImage comes from WP Clipart[1] which ONLY features public domain images and provides extensive source information on their “Legal” page: [2]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Erik_Erikson.png#/media/File:Erik_Erikson.png

The great twentieth-century psychologist Erik Erikson once fittingly described the mother as a young child’s “first geography”:

[The child] may indulge in experimental excursions on her body and on the protrusions and orifices of her face (…) and the basic maps acquired in such interplay with the mother no doubt remain guides for the ego’s first orientation in the “world.”

(Erikson, p. 220)

So the early experience of the mother in a certain sense informs our view of the world — both as far as “mother earth” is concerned and in relation to our wider worldview — subsequently.  But it is not just a question of physical features.  We human beings are profoundly interpersonal creatures; and as infants, when we are totally dependent on our providers for our every need and extremely sensitive to our environmental influences, we absorb the emotional states of those closest to us.  This, like much of the infant’s experience at this basic formative stage, can have a far-reaching and long-lasting impact.

Now let’s imagine, from a Biblical perspective, the experience of the first human babies, whose whole existence early on subsisted in a loving and provident mother who, at the same time, bore within herself an unnameable sadness, a deep and incurable scar left by the memory of a primordial Fall from Grace — which Fall affects all the world, since it is mankind’s “stage.”

This broad psychological, emotional and spiritual inheritance, this great “genetic memory,” certainly finds its way into the psychology of humankind as a whole, and of each of us individually, in various ways.

Saint_Anne_with_the_Virgin“Angelos Akotanos – Saint Anne with the Virgin – 15th century” by Angelos Akotanos (attribution) – scan from A Guide to the Benaki Museum, by Angelos Delivorrias. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Angelos_Akotanos_-_Saint_Anne_with_the_Virgin_-_15th_century.jpg#/media/File:Angelos_Akotanos_-_Saint_Anne_with_the_Virgin_-_15th_century.jpg

Having gone from a natural to a Biblical perspective, let us now move from the broadly Biblical to the specifically Catholic.  I’d like to reflect a bit (speculatively, of course) on the infancy of the Blesséd Virgin Mary, whose “first geography” was her own mother, St. Anne.

A brief refresher on the Catholic understanding of Mary: She was by a special grace from God preserved from all sin, both Original and personal, from the moment of her conception.  Hence, she was outside the realm of Original Sin alluded to above.

St. Anne, however, was not.  She was most certainly a very holy woman, but she was not without the effects of sin…Original or personal.  She, unlike the child she bore, had a part in the sadness of our human condition.

Since Mary did not inherit Original Sin in the first place (unlike the rest of us), neither did its effects in her mother pass on to her (as it tends to do with the rest of us).  But Mary was not outside the realm of human sympathy.  This means that without any participation in the guilt of humanity, she would presumably have inherited and intuited from her mother a connection with human suffering, with the tragic “geography” of human existence, and from this a deep sense of compassion…

Madonna and Child“15th-century unknown painters – Madonna on a Crescent Moon in Hortus Conclusus – WGA23736” by Unknown Master, German (active 1450s in Cologne) – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:15th-century_unknown_painters_-_Madonna_on_a_Crescent_Moon_in_Hortus_Conclusus_-_WGA23736.jpg#/media/File:15th-century_unknown_painters_-_Madonna_on_a_Crescent_Moon_in_Hortus_Conclusus_-_WGA23736.jpg

…and this she would have given to her divine Son, Jesus Christ, in giving Him a human nature.  He, in turn, would subsume all this in His own flesh and lift it up in His Resurrection.

Christ's Wounds

“Caravaggio – The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” by Original uploader was Dante Alighieri at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Tm using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas.jpg#/media/File:Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas.jpg

Mass-attending Catholics will recall this past Sunday’s Gospel, which recounts Our Lord’s post-Resurrection appearance to St. Thomas the Apostle:

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

(John 20: 27-28)

We’ve all been wounded in one way or another, and we all know woundedness in the depths of our being.  But the good news is that Christ’s own Wounds are not only sympathetic, but saving.  Hence we can say that the Apostle Thomas was the first to come into intimate physical contact with the new geography.

As you might have guessed, I do have more to say on this subject.  But it can wait 🙂

Images from Wikipedia

Reference

Erikson, E.H. (1963). Childhood and Society (2nd ed.). NY: Norton.

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Before I begin, I should make it clear that Easter begins, rather than ends, on Easter Sunday — despite what retailers might have us believe (no offense intended to people in retail).

Gnosticism

There is an ancient religious-philosophical system known as gnosticism.  In a nutshell, gnosticism espouses the following general principles:

1. Matter is evil.  The material world, including our physical bodies, is created and ruled by a demon called the Demiurge.

2. Gnosis (Greek for “knowledge”).  Certain people — a very select few — are selected to be “saved” by becoming spiritual through a hidden, infused knowledge.  When they die, their true inner selvestheir spiritual souls — will break free from the prison of their physical bodies, and they will fly away to a realm of pure spirit.

ManicheansA related school of thought was Manichaeism, which flourished for a little while in the Near East during the early A.D. period.  St. Augustine of Hippo was a member of this school of thought for a little while, before converting to Christianity.

In his great work “Confessions,” Augustine shares an important insight that he gained after his conversion:

(. . .) and with a sounder judgement I held that the higher (I presume that he meant spiritual) things are indeed better than the lower, but that all things together are better than the higher ones alone (“Confessions,” VII:xiv — John K. Ryan translation from Image Books)

What was it about Judeo-Christian revelation that would have led him to that insight?  Well, for one thing, there is the Genesis creation account, which speaks of how God created the material world in all its splendor, climaxing in the creation of mankind…body and soul.

God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. (Gen. 1:31)

ResurrectionBut with the Resurrection of Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh, this point is super-eminently reaffirmed.

With the Resurrection, any form of Gnostic dualism is definitively refuted.

With the Resurrection, God reaffirms the goodness of His creation, and especially of humankind.

With the Resurrection, the value of the human body as part of a person’s identity is radically reaffirmed.

With the Resurrection, the material world (to which the body is necessarily related) is not only– and not to be redundant — reaffirmed in its goodness, but, as Fr. Robert Barron says, “rais(ed) (…) up to a higher pitch.”*

Indeed, the Resurrection is the wellspring of renewal — not just for humanity but for all of creation, created good but damaged by sin.  And in Christ, God has seen fit to make us leaders in this great renewal.

That doesn’t mean that we will be able to build a perfect world here on earth, of course.  But as we prepare for that Final Day when Christ ushers in a new heavens and a new earth (Rev. 21:1), we must strive to spread the truly good and liberating news of the Divine Love and its definitive victory in all we say and do, bringing it to bear upon our everyday affairs and upon the things of this world.

Kind of makes Easter seem more exciting than images of bonnets and baskets, doesn’t it?

Images from Wikipedia

http://www.lentreflections.com/why-easter-matters/

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We are a few episodes into ABC’s new drama “Resurrection.”  For those of you who haven’t seen it, I’ll summarize briefly: It is set in the town of Arcadia, Missouri, the residents of which suddenly find their deceased loved ones returning from the dead.

Thus far, we have met only one of them (possibly three, but that’s another story) — 8-year-old Jacob Langston (Landon Gimenez), who drowned in a nearby river 32 years ago.  Inexplicably, he wakes up in the middle of what appears to be rice field in China; once Jacob is repatriated back to the U.S., Agent J. Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps) is charged with taking him home.  Expecting a chauffeur job that will be done in a day, he is drawn into a mystery that will turn an entire community on its head.

It’s very interesting that in this show, the deceased return neither as disembodied spirits nor as “dis-ensouled” bodies (a.k.a. zombies); rather, they return to their loved ones just as they were before they died.

Color me over-analytical, but I think this resonates with us because of something deeply held in the human psyche for thousands and thousands of years.  We may be surprised to learn how closely the notion of immortality was linked with the body in the ancient world.  Most cultures believed in an afterlife of sorts, but for the most part this consisted of a sort of shadowy half-existence to which some mysterious remnant of the person went after bodily death.

AbrahamFor the early Hebrews, belief in a personal afterlife was not widespread…if it was there at all.  As we see exemplified in the story of Abraham, a man was thought to achieve immortality through his progeny.  A child, a parent’s own “flesh and blood,” was how one lived on after death.

LazarusBy the time of Jesus Christ, a belief in personal immortality had developed in Israel — and so had the belief in bodily resurrection at the end of time.  The Jews had the understanding that the body was not a mere “shell,” but expressive of the person; the separation of the soul and body was precisely what death was.  And so, the resurrection of the body would have been essential to the notion of personal immortality and the defeat of death.

And then when Jesus came to preach the kingdom to the world, one of the chiefest ways in which He showed His divine power was by raising people bodily from the dead.

07RESURRECTION-master675-v2I’m not saying that God is the One bringing people back in “Resurrection,” in the minds of the show’s creators.  The source of these resurrections is not clear, and in fact there are already some suggestions that perhaps what’s really going on is not what it seems.  My point is that when the community is confronted with a phenomenon that they clearly cannot explain, something that is most obviously bigger than any of the categories within which they live — in other words, when there is the hint of a miracle in their midst…well, to a few — like Joshua’s mother, Lucille (Frances Fisher) — this is a comfort.  But to most, it is a stumbling block.

Surely, they may comfort themselves with the thought of their deceased loved ones being in an ethereal “better place.”  But when they seem to have been brought back to them in the flesh, this confronts them with something greater than themselves in a way that is more real than the vague spirituality they may be used to.

MARK HILDRETH

Pastor Tom Hale (Mark Hildreth), a childhood friend of Jacob’s, is unsure what to make of his long-lost friend’s apparent resurrection.  At one point, he says to his wife, “I’ve spent the past 10 years preaching the miracles of God, and now that there is one right in front of me I can’t believe it.”

Even more telling is a later scene in the same episode, in which he is giving a sermon to his congregation.  We can see that he is in his element here; he speaks with great passion and conviction.

In come Lucille and Jacob, and at that point he freezes.  He is overcome with emotion and confusion, unable to speak.  This shouldn’t suggest to us that he didn’t believe in what he preached before.  But this personal confrontation with the miraculous has clearly taken things to a whole new level.

When I saw this, I was reminded of the following quote from C.S. Lewis:

It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone.  “Look out!” we cry, “It’s alive.”  And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back–I would have done so myself if I could–and proceed no further with Christianity.  An “impersonal God”–well and good.  A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads–better still.  A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap–best of all.  But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband–that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall?  There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God”!) suddenly draw back.  Supposing we really found Him?  We never meant it to come to that!  Worse still, supposing He had found us?

– From the book “Miracles” (as quoted in “Jesus Shock” by Peter Kreeft)

Ultimately, an encounter with resurrection is an encounter with Christ.  In His glorified Resurrection, a Resurrection which admits of no further death, we find the very principle of our own resurrection.

So these are my thoughts for the time being.  If you haven’t seen the show, check it out.  It’s quite interesting.

Images from Wikipedia

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Noel-coypel-the-resurrection-of-christ-1700“How is Jesus’ Resurrection different from the resurrection of Lazarus, or of others He raised from the dead?”

This question is more important than people realize.  If Jesus’ Resurrection were essentially no different, for example, from the resurrection he brought to Lazarus, then the Resurrection is not the breakthrough novelty in history that the Church claims it to be.

Even if Jesus Himself was the source of previous resurrections, the fact remains that people could still say of His own Resurrection, “It’s nothing we haven’t seen before.”

LazarusHere is the big point of departure: Lazarus, and the others whom Jesus raised from the dead during His three-year ministry, were raised in such a way that they would die again.  It was their mortal bodies, still prone to sin, weakness, illness, and the limits of time and space, that “got back up.”

In other words, Lazarus and his fellow resurrectees were able to resume their earthly lives more or less as before, though transformed by the life-changing experience of having encountered the Savior.

We see something very different in the resurrected body of Jesus Christ.  Having risen from the dead, He became free from the bonds of death.  Additionally, we read in the Gospels that He was able to walk through walls, be in one place in one instant and then in a completely different place in the next, and “appear(…) as he wishe(d): in the guise of a gardener or in other forms…” (CCC 645)

Short story: The resurrected body of Jesus Christ is unconstrained by the limits of time and space.  Similarly, our bodies will share in His glorious Resurrection at the end of time:

He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body. (Philippians 3:21)

(The body) is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. (1 Cor. 15:42)

So that’s the essential difference that the Resurrection of Christ makes.  If we consider this difference, we see that the fact of the Resurrection not only reaffirms God’s love for creation, but also gives us an elevated understanding of the glory to which it (mankind, in particular) is destined.

Images from Wikipedia

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ResurrectionNight is gone, morning has come.  The King was asleep in the earth, but is now alive forevermore!

Those of you who read “Into the Dance” regularly may remember my Christmas post, in which I said that the Christmas Season began, rather than ended, with the December 25th celebration.

Well, the same goes for Easter.  With Holy Saturday, we marked the end of the Season of Lent.  With yesterday’s celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection from the dead, we marked the beginning of the 40-day Easter Season.

Lent was a time of penance, but now the time for rejoicing has arrived.  For by His triumph over death, Jesus Christ has freed mankind — and, by extension, all creation — from bondage.  He has arrested the downward trajectory of creation and history toward death, entropy, and loss.  In raising His Son bodily from the dead, God has eminently reaffirmed the goodness of creation:

God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. (Genesis 1:31)

And in spite of our sin, the glorious Resurrection of Our Lord reaffirms God’s top project — namely, humanity.  Humanity has lost faith in God many times throughout history, but God has never taken away His fidelity to humanity.

In fact, in assuming unto Himself a human nature, dying for our sins, and rising in His full divinity and full humanity from the dead, Jesus has offered us something abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine.  He offers us a share in His very own life, the life of the Holy Trinity — the Divine Life.  He has risen from the dead never to die again, and He promises the same to all those who persevere in love for Him, even though in the meantime they continue to face many trials in this world that is “groaning in travail” (Romans 8:22).

And yes, this world is still a messed up place with a lot of problems.  But the birth pangs have begun.  And Christians are to bear witness to this by their witness to Christ, the only Savior, and live out their responsibility to the world in the spirit of the Resurrection.

A Happy Easter to everyone, and in the words of St. Paul:

Rejoice (in the Lord) always. (1 Thes. 5:16)

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