Tuesday, April 10, 2007

He Is Risen!

"He is not here; he is risen, as he said."
- The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28, verse 6

"and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain."
- The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 17

This past Sunday was Easter, or, as it might more truly be called, the Feast of the Resurrection. My Eastern Orthodox brethren call it Pascha, which is wonderfully evocative of the imagery of the Jewish Passover, and all the connections that evokes - the Sacrifice Lamb, and all that.

Easter, or, more to the point, the Resurrection, is the very crux and focal point of Christianity, its sine qua non - without the Resurrection, you don't have Christianity. With it, you have everything.

Over the years, I've had many rich meditations related to Christmas and the Incarnation - it has been an almost limitless source of deep and textured thought for me. Not so Easter and the Resurrection, and I'm at a bit of a loss to explain why. I mean, theologically, and all sorts of other ways (except commercially, I suppose) the Resurrection is a much bigger deal than the Incarnation, so why should I be so full of thoughts on Christmas, and so reticent about Easter?

I think, when you come right down to it, that there really isn't all that much to say about Easter - it is what it is, or it's nothing at all. Very stark, very cut-and-dried. Either Christ is risen, and Christianity is true, and we all owe our lives and our very being to the God who raised Him, or He isn't, and 2000 years of Christianity is a lie and a sham. Those are pretty much the only possibilities. Yes or no? And all of life hangs on the answer you give to that question.

It is easy for me to get rather overly 'theological' about it, but the basic fact of the matter is straightforward - either the tomb was empty, or it wasn't. If it wasn't, then there really is no particular story to tell - a good man died unjustly, a sad story, but history is full of those. But if the tomb was empty, then that demands that we come to terms with that very brute fact, and its implications for our lives. There is no in-between position available.

For myself, I can say that, "I know whom I have believed." (II Timothy 1:12). And I am only too happy to encourage any of you to make His acquaintance. I can honestly say that knowing Christ has made all the difference, and "the power of His resurrection" has transformed my life.

But each of you must reach his/her own conclusions - "what do you make of Christ?" And the whole Universe hangs in the balance. . .


As my Orthodox brethren say,

Christos Anesti! Alethos Anesti!
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

Happy Easter, everyone!


Monday, April 2, 2007

A Few Questions From a Friend

One of my blog-friends asked me a few questions, which I believe will help you all understand me better (and I'm just vain enough to think that you would want to). So, forthwith. . .

- What moved you to embrace Catholicism?

This demands a bit of a complex answer; you would be very kind to bear with me. I’ve posted about it, way back when, but perhaps I can expand a bit here.

I suppose it started the first time I went to a Catholic Mass, when I was in high school. My Jesus-freak buddy and I took on a project of visiting as many different kinds of churches as we could find. When we visited the Catholic church in town, I was very surprised by how much scripture was woven into the liturgy (I’d been told that Catholics just didn’t ‘do’ scripture), and how prayerful it was. So, my first impression was, “hey, this is a lot cooler than I expected it to be.”

When I went away to college, I was sort of ‘rootless’ in a church sense. I went to the college-town church of my ‘home denomination’ once, and was quite underwhelmed. I started going to a charismatic prayer meeting, and felt immediately at home. I took up with a young lady, who happened to be Catholic, and she began regularly inviting me to go to mass with her. Which I did, quite a lot, and it mainly reinforced my first impression.

At the same time, I took up an independent study of Church history – I was interested in what had happened to Christianity in the generations immediately following Jesus and the Apostles – how the second generation of Christians received the gospel from the Apostles, and how they, in turn, passed it on to the third – and I wondered how it had gotten from Bible days to my own. I don’t say that such a project would affect everyone the same way it affected me, but I came to see Catholicism (and Orthodoxy) as being in historical continuity with the first Christians, and if I wanted to be in that kind of ‘spiritual continuity’, I had to at least deal with that question.

I undertook to be received into the Catholic Church when I thought that the young lady (GF2, if you recall her) and I would get married, but for various reasons, we broke off our romantic relationship while I was in instruction (we are good friends today, tho). By then, though, I was already thinking of the Catholic Church as my spiritual ‘home’, and I completed my instruction on my own initiative, and was received into the Catholic Church.

Once I was safely Catholic, a few things sort of ‘cemented’ my conversion. Catholic sacramental life turned out to be a good deal richer than I’d anticipated. I recall hearing a Pentecostal preacher talking about a trip he’d taken to Poland, and he drew a fascinating parallel between communion and an altar call – “people standing in line to receive Jesus”. That thought has never left me, and to this day, I will often quietly hum ‘Just As I Am’ in the communion line.

I also discovered what I’ll call the ‘Catholic Intellectual Tradition’ – Thomas Aquinas, John Henry Newman, GK Chesterton, the whole Natural Law tradition – and I was instantly smitten. This was only reinforced when John Paul II became pope. I had never encountered anything quite like it (aside from CS Lewis, I suppose, and to a lesser extent, Francis Schaeffer).

- If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

I wish I weren’t so selfish. It is altogether too easy for me to go through life thinking about myself and my interests and what I want/need, when Molly and the kids need more of my ‘brain space’. I can do OK where Molly is concerned, especially when I’m feeling horny. But I really need to give more of my thoughts and attention to the kids. It’s altogether too easy for me to retreat into my ‘private world’ and tune them out. And that is not unrelated to the troubles that a couple of them have had. . .

- What is the best and worst thing about having a large family?

I want to say that they’re the same thing – you’re rarely alone. There’s never a dull moment, for sure. It’s very gratifying to see the relationships they have with each other – much as they bicker with each other, as they grow up their relationships really do develop some depth and affection. With eight kids, that’s 28 separate relationships of the kids with each other (45, if you throw Molly and me into the mix). And, as the kids get older, it’s very gratifying to see them cultivating a ‘family identity’ – all that shared experience has started being a ‘bonding’ thing. And, I’ve definitely improved my odds of having grandchildren. . . ;)

But, the bickering can reach truly epic proportions, and sometimes I just want to lock them all in the basement and let them have at each other, and then we’ll just go on with the survivors. I’m also a guy who seems to have a more-than-average felt need for some low-key solitude, and that just doesn’t happen very often. And I won’t even get into the grocery bills. . .

There has been a certain good-news/bad-news aspect when it comes to the troubles we’ve had with 1F and 3M – in the course of dealing with those situations, there are six other kids who get sort of short-changed in the process. But, they can also soften the grief for us, if we’re paying attention. . .

So, there you have it. I'll gladly entertain any follow-up questions any of you might have.

I enjoyed this; I hope you all enjoyed it, too. . .