Letter From New York, April 26, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

It is the end of the long Easter weekend and, as I often do at the end of Easter, I find myself thoughtful. I was raised Catholic and am infused with that tradition. I will always be infused with that. As my friend Robert said to me last year about this time: once a Catholic, always a Catholic. And I will always, on some level, be Catholic, an inescapable state.

I do not practice Roman Catholicism though I sometimes attend Catholic services, not often though. I sometimes attend Episcopal services. I have done so since I was in college.

And it was while I was in college that Easter became something more than it had been in my Catholic childhood. It became a time of reflection, of personal stocktaking, of understanding that there is a place in history that this weekend represents which is important in the course of human events. Regardless of your belief structure, it is impossible to deny that the life and death of Jesus changed the world forever.

My most important Good Friday happened when I was in college. My roommate Ron and I were driving back from Toronto where we went frequently; he was marrying a girl from there. As we drove back from Toronto on that Good Friday, driving as we were day and night, we read THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE by C.S. Lewis to each other. As Aslan was resurrected, the sun burst through the dismal skies of that day and the sun made a glorious appearance through the hills of Wisconsin.

I cried that day at the power of the story. And ever since that day I have paid deep attention to Good Friday, every Good Friday since then has captured my attention, my notice, my contemplation. This past Good Friday was grey, rainy, cold and full of intimations of mortality – as a Good Friday should be or so I think now.

When three o’clock came, the time Jesus died on the cross, a death so horrible I cannot even imagine, I was listening to Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor and thinking on that powerful day in college when I viscerally understood the story of death and resurrection. As I regularly do on Easter weekend, I read the story of Jesus’ death, his resurrection. The Gospel of Matthew, of course.

On Holy Saturday, the rains continued, a soft, sad nature song that fitted the Easter story, fitted the story that Jesus was in his grave. I thought about the silence of the grave, which awaits us all and that is part of what I think about on Easter weekend, mortality. And the brief mortality of the man who was named Jesus and called the Christ.

Easter itself was a special day. The sun played with the clouds, mists rose from the creek, there was time with friends, lamb was eaten, people were met and I thought about resurrection. There is a Christian Evangelical Minister named Ron Bell who is attracting attention and some derision as he is thinking of a universe without hell. He was written up in Time last week, or the week before last.

I think, at the end of the day, God is the spirit of Easter, the spirit of resurrection and hope, of forgiveness. Did not Christ say on the cross, as he died his agonizing death, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do?”

And that is the spirit of Easter. If we do not live in the spirit of Easter and if there is no spirit of redemption there is no hope for us. It does not matter what religion you practice; there is universal truth in Easter, in forgiveness, in resurrection. It is the essence of what I struggle with – I need to believe in the spirit of redemption because only in redemption will we find salvation. And salvation, even if only from ourselves, is what we seek while we plod our way across this mortal coil.

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