Sunday, April 8, 2018

Passage to Life

"The Resurrection", by myself. 2013,
Acrylic and silver leaf on wood
O Son of God, risen from the dead
Save us who sing to You

Sunday after Sunday I'd go to to the liturgy and sing these lines and hang on to them. Week in and week out I'd go and soak the Liturgy in. I sure didn't understand why I loved the liturgy as much as I did, but there's this passage from the Hymn of Praise to Chrysanthus and Daria from the Prologue of Ohrid that brings it into clear focus for me:

The One Triune God
Who created the celestial armies
Of angels and the heavenly powers;
Who created the whole universe,
With man as its crown
God does not look at the vessel of the  flesh,
But at the flower that grows in it
O virgin, clothed in death,
Today, tomorrow consumed by death:
Adorn your soul with the flower of the virtues,
Sow the flower with faith in the Lord
Enclose it with hope and love

So many times it's easy to forget this: We are the crown of creation, God's greatest accomplishment. God was never going to let us be. We're not just anyone or anything we, by nature, are the most important part of His creation! And death mars this crown that God had made for the world. So what happens when these people that God had made choose death, thus plunging all of creation into darkness? It's not like we, humans, can fix it. We wrecked ourselves, and thus made a larger problem than we could ever hope to fix. But to fix creation would violate our free will. Creation is ours, and we're the stewards of it. God doesn't want to visit the vineyard yet to require our fruits, He would far prefer to keep loving us and to accept the gift we could make to Him of the earth. He wants to stay in relationship with us, not rule over us. So God became one of us, so that way our makeup could be divine, if we wished. And that meant making sure all of our humanity would have contact with the Godhead. Christ died, fully assuming our human nature. "While man can scarcely keep what belongs to him by nature, Christ gives the grace of Sonship through the Cross." (St. Mark the Ascetic, No Righteousness by Works) With the Resurrection and Ascension Christ has given us the option to transcend all the things that have brought us down as a race, to become more than we ever thought possible.

With Christ's resurrection we become more than we were before. The myths of the world tell us to not go too high without the gods' permission, that Phaeton shouldn't fly the chariot of the sun because it's definitely too much for him. Ascent to the gods cannot be done because "Thy lot is mortal, but thy wishes fly" as Phoebus says. Any attempts at control or understanding of the world will inevitably end in the heavens catching fire and seeing horrors that we were never meant to. Trying to become more than what we are on our own is doomed to failure; Phoebus will mourn his son.

But what if the God were to descend unto us? This is the Resurrection's beauty. We do not have to ascend upon a chariot or a pair of constructed wings, we are lifted, like a child into his parent's arms.
In our haste to fix things we forget that we don't have to do anything but reach up our arms and be lifted. We may have to hack a bloody path to get to our God's arms but even that is done with weapons that no one can scarcely comprehend, thanks be to God! The Resurrection is this lifting up out of our darkness into God's loving embrace. It is to be held by our Brother as the horrors dissolve, leaving us in a bright embrace that we can barely comprehend, so faint of being are we. The gulls cry and white shores come upon us, along with a swift sunrise. We find that we are home with the One Who always  loved us.

The wars will be over on that day. No more will we need the sword, no more will the grave be necessary. We will return to the Tree of Life and realize that all our longings were for this homeland that was bought by our gravestone and a cross. No more will we cry, for all the wounds we had taken will be turned into something beyond comprehension. We will no longer have to fight. We will be at rest, and all will be well. And so, on this day, we commemorate the day  that God reaches down and waits for us to look up from our schemes to fix everything and realize that He's right here, waiting to take us home. Hooray for Karamazov! May this day be revealed in its full glory soon!


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