I’ve never enjoyed spring as much as these days. The land and the climate of the Prairie have opened my whole being to the beauty of this season. Spring in Manitoba comes so suddenly that we don’t seem to be able to comprehend how it happened and when. Without our knowledge, the change is already happening right in front of us. Swiftly we find ourselves in the middle of this changing season. The grass that has been covered with snow and dirt for many months now reminds us of their true colour. Insects and bugs start appearing claiming their own space in the universe. Birds are returning home as the days are getting longer and warmer. If you take the garbage out at night, you have most likely noticed the change in the air. Now we can breathe differently. A breath of air is the most intimate medium that connect us to the surroundings. We feel spring not only outside but also inside of us. We live and breathe spring.
Easter is just like that. What’s happening outside is also happening inside. What happened to Jesus can also happen to us, the whole humanity, and the whole creation. When it comes to Easter our binary way of thinking tends to operate. Did it really happen as it was written in the Bible? If it didn’t really happen, what’s the point of Easter? I have seen people on the opposite ends of the spectrum – those who believe in the resurrection in a very literal sense, and those who turn their back to it. In either case, we fail to make the connection between the resurrection and the rest of the creation.
In his book, Resurrecting Easter, John Dominic Crossan demonstrates how Western Christianity and Eastern Christianity have viewed the resurrection differently. To put it simply, the West understood the resurrection as an individual event – Jesus rose from the dead once and for all. Whereas the East understood it more as a communal and universal event – what is possible for the rest of the creation because of the resurrection. Crossan and his team made 20 trips for 15 years, visiting museums, libraries, monasteries and churches – the past glories and the present hopes of Eastern Christianity. The Eastern Church saw the resurrection at least three ways: the trampling of the hell, the corporate leading out of hell, and the corporate uplifting of humanity with Christ. It is more like a communal uprising than an individual miracle. Crossan demonstrates through art that the West lost and the East kept the original Easter vision.
Richard Rohr agrees on that. He explains about resurrection with Universal Christ or Eternal Christ. Rohr says, Resurrection is another word for change, but particularly positive change – which we tend to see only in the long run. In the short run, it often just look like death.
“Resurrection is about the whole of creation, it is about history, it is about every human who has ever been conceived, sinned, suffered, and died, every animal that has lived and died a tortured death, every element that has changed from solid, to liquid, to ether, over great expanses of time. It is about you and it is about me. It is about everything. The “Christ journey” is indeed another name for every thing.”
Such understanding enlarges our view of resurrection from a one-time miracle in the life of Jesus to a pattern of creation that has always been true, and that invites us to much more than belief in a miracle. It must be more than the private victory of one man to prove that he is God.
Indeed we can find many references in the Bible to resurrection as a pattern of creation instead of one time event. For example, Paul presents resurrection, in 1 Corinthians 15:13, as a universal principle; “If there is no resurrection from death, Christ himself cannot have been raised.” What the verse implies is that the reason we can trust Jesus’ resurrection is that we can already see resurrection happening everywhere else. Where do you see resurrection in the world?
Last Monday a massive fire engulfed the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, leaving the whole city of Paris and people around the world in shock, grief and mourning. It was heartbreaking to watch how the beautiful space was being destroyed. I have a fond memory there. Ha Na and I went backpacking through France and Italy. On the very first day of our trip we had an argument, and ended up touring Notre-Dame Cathedral separately. The fire brought back lots of memories of the trip. I remember the chanting, praying, singing, countless candle lights, and the numinous feeling just by being in the space, and the reunion and reconciliation right after the separate tour at the entrance of the church. The burnt cathedral felt like a long forgotten friend of mine was gone. Just like sometimes I feel closer to my loved one who is no longer here than when we were together, I actually feel closer to that place than before. It was moving to see how the loss of the building brought people together. People in Paris were crying, praying, chanting and signing. The physical building cannot be restored as before, but we have already seen its resurrection as it was serenaded by the numerous people who remember.
Two days after the fire, I went to the Riverwood Square for an early Easter service. We talked about various signs of spring, and how they reminded us of Easter. It was not just another topic for a conversation, but something that was happening to us, and among us. All of us in the room felt uplifted by sharing our resurrection experiences. One person said, how beginning of each new day could be a resurrection moment. Another person, who watched the jets’ game on the night before, agreed that it felt like resurrection when there was the game-tying goal. We had the most lively and animated discussion ever. After worship, two of them remained in the room as they continued to talk about spring in relation to Easter.
I was listening to their stories as if I would listen to the most precious Easter sermon. “Just take a look at a branch, and see those buds” Said, one of them, who looks out the window every day to see the changing scenery. “They are not dead” she continued, “They are ready. Every tree. Every branch. As soon as the sun gives them a kiss…” “Must be that” echoed by the next person, who grew up on a farm. “And it must be something in the tree too.” Hearing them, I got to understand resurrection better. It is the very moment when microcosm and macrocosm meet through the process of their continuous correspondence. Resurrection is like the beginning of spring in Manitoba. Though there was snow recently, within a day or two of sunny day of spring, everything was beginning to change. It’s like crocuses coming out in the field. They do appear breaking through winter’s firmament when the right time comes despite the weather and our knowledge. Because they are so low and are attached to the ground, they are the first ones that signify that spring is on its way, as Indigenous people call Ears of the Earth.
We are like crocuses, enduring hardship and getting ready for the right moment when the sun, God’s unconditional love, kisses us. We are Easter people inside and out. We can live and breathe resurrection.