St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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Experiencing Resurrection in a Minor Key

If Easter is for real and not about bunnies and eggs it has to be real for everyone. If the Eternal Word comes to us this word must be able to speak to all people. If the resurrection is a proclamation to all the ends of the earth, it must be just that: a message about a mystery that can enrich everyone’s life and open the path to renewal of body, mind, and spirit. The message is not limited to Christianity. Easter is about freedom in the Spirit, capitalized at Pentecost. This freedom opens us to the world rather than closing us off from it.

All too often religion is used as a means to escape the world, a hedge against reality, and a relief from daily complexities. In the gospel, Jesus accuses his detractors of using religion as an escape, and furthermore of doing it in a particular way. Here’s how: In the midst of the complex issues of life, you shut down and narrow your focus to rule out other viewpoints. You limit the truth to your viewpoints, and then seek to make them appear solid and immovable. Jesus accused his antagonists of trying to tie up all the loose ends of life so that there was no unpredictability. The price paid was to create a system that strangles us with its rigidity. Such people arise in all religions and their effect is, quite simply, toxic. They poison the inspiration by smothering it by indoctrination.

When we escape this toxicity, we begin to look for signs where we are, not in some realm where God is a giant finger-wagger in the sky, seeking whom he may condemn. The Desert Fathers say as much: if you can’t find God where you are, you won’t find God anywhere. And that God, by the way, is Love.

In his magnificent work True Resurrection, the Anglican priest, professor, and monk H. A. Williams suggests that unless we begin to creatively experience resurrection in this life, we are unlikely to recognize it in the world to come. We stand in danger of losing it unless we begin now, in line with the gospel of John, to experience and name – at least for ourselves – those times when life opens up to eternity, and when we move beyond trying to please God by conformity.

We have known these times. I repeat: we have known these times. Under my fingers I discover resurrection. My hand moves with a writing implement and a series of marks stream forth which, together, make sense. In the dance of the pen the rhythm can be read as intelligible signs and not mere scratches. Meaning rises up out of the chaos of scribbling.

If you have emptied yourself in love to the point where you are mysteriously granted fulfillment, is this not resurrection in a minor key? If you have experienced the exhilaration when the split between mind and body is overcome, and there is only performance – in tennis, in cycling, in basketball, in martial arts, you name it – is this not resurrection in a minor key? If you have been in tune with your environment so that you lost the distinction between yourself and your surroundings in a oneness that is palpable, is this not resurrection in a minor key?

The truly sad thing is that many people seem to want life to be controllable, restricted, and predictable. Better the calm that comes with boredom than the chaos of spiritual freedom. Freedom is untidy, unruly, unmanageable, and complex. It is also the threshold to resurrection. Claim it where you have known it.

17 June 2011