As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Pashca Ponderings

t's early on Caisc, or Easter. The women haven't yet made it to the tomb.

I haven't really been able to post for the Triduum, so I'm going to work my way backwards. I am, as at every Easter, reminded of the verse, "Sin, where are your shackles. Death, where is your sting?" The curse of Adam and Eve is not sin, or Sin, but rather death.

Christ is risen from the dead, Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life. Christ is risen!

At the moment when Jesus died, the "graves were opened" and many that were dead walked on Earth again. I bet that spooked some people! Ha! Anyway, when my wife first started going to pharmacy school, she had to move to Chapel Hill while Josiah and I stayed in Concord (for a year). As I was moving her into her apartment, I encountered a bee. A big bee. A huge bee! It floated right in front of me, as if it were daring me to pass it. I wasn't about to, until the woman on the porch watching me said, "That's a carpenter bee. They don't have stingers."

It had no sting. Of course, even though I now knew it didn't, I still had trouble walking past. I was still scared of it, and it's now defunct sting. I didn't have faith, I guess.

I don't have much to say for Black Saturday, except that I went to a really lovely wedding. A friend from school got married. I picked out all the music for it over several luncheon meetings. She is a big fan of hip hop music, and was quite amused to find a song she really liked was called "Air on a G String."

Friday was a momentous day as well. It was both the Feast of the Annunciation and Good Friday. This doesn't very often happen. In effect, we were both celebrating the day Mary learned she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit and the day Jesus actually died. There is a tradition that, on the day of the original crucifixtion, that it was the 34th anniversary of Gabriel's message to the Virgin.

This is quite beautiful for many reasons. First, because it bookends the work of salvation. While Western Christians tend to highlight the death and resurrection of Christ, Eastern Christians place at least equal weight on the Incarnation, which is more properly celebrated on the Annunciation.

Today is the beginning of our salvation,
The revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, O Full of Grace,
The Lord is with You!

Christ, in taking on our human nature, made it possible to reverse death by His death. The Incarnation and Crucifixion of Christ make a full circle of the work of Salvation, inspiring this poem by John Donne.

TAMELY, frail body, abstain to-day ; to-day
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur ; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came, and went away

Of course, I'm sure Mary didn't really care about that on the day Jesus died. I think mothers are generally not that concerned with the grand scheme of things when their children die. Thinking that the message of Gabriel and last words of Jesus came on the same day gives even greater power to both La Pieta and the heart-rending hymn Stabat Mater Dolorosa:

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

Also, on the day of the suffering of Christ there was another coincidence: at that time the constellation of Southern Cross was entirely visible low in the South from Jerusalem.

Finally, Maundy Thursday opens my mind to the legend of the Holy Grail, most commonly believed to be the cup of Christ. There is a very interesting article which summarizes all the varied beliefs about the grail which, if you're interested, you can read here.

Crist is arisen!
Arisen he sothe!

This is the day of resurrection,
Let us be illumined by the feast,
Let us embrace each other,
Let its call "brothers" even those that hate us,
And forgive all by the resurrection,
And so let us cry: Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life.

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