Michael Lerner has asked me to write a few thoughts about the message of Good Friday and Easter. I appreciate his invitation, a sign of the meaning of deep ecumenism and what we have to learn from each others faith traditions.
To me, the “paschal mystery” of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the rabbi is an archetypal reminder about how, as science now teaches us, all things in the cosmos live, die and resurrect. Supernovas, galaxies, solar systems, planets, beings that inhabit our planet—we all have our time of existence and of passing out of existence. But we leave something behind for further generations and that constitutes resurrection. Supernovas leave elements behind in a great explosion that seed other solar systems, planets and ever our very bodies. Every being leaves something behind as food for others—Einstein said no energy is lost in the universe and Hildegard of Bingen said no warmth is lost in the universe. I like to say that no beauty is lost in the universe. The universe has a memory for energy, warmth and beauty. Nothing our ancestors accomplished is lost—so long as we remember. Hopefully, as humans, we leave beauty behind and wise progeny, maybe books or paintings or scientific breakthroughs or insights, or healed souls or bodies, etc. etc. Our resurrection is very much a part of our creativity. Otto Rank: The artist is one who wants to leave behind a gift.
Jesus left behind the gift of his teachings, a distillation as I see it of the basic teachings of his Jewish ancestors: That compassion and justice are what link us to the Divine and that we are to look not to empires or to objects for the Kingdom of God but within ourselves and among others in community for the love that is at once our love of neighbor and our love of God, a love “that the world cannot give.” In other words, to “all our relations.” The fact of his being tortured and killed in a most ignominious way by the Roman Empire is a stark reminder that we do not take on the powers of darkness as our prophetic vocations require without paying a price. But the story is that life triumphs over death, even if it has to succumb to powers of death at times and the form that a resurrected life takes is diverse. It often surprises!
We do not die once. We all die many times. Life does that to us with our losses, our betrayals, our own mistakes and emptying out. But we also resurrect on a regular basis as well. We forgive, we are forgiven, we bottom out, we move on, we give birth anew thus that life and death are more synergetic that we usually imagine them to be. “God’s exit is her entrance,” as Meister Eckhart put it. The depths of the valley of death do not overcome the power of life which makes things new again. Injustice seems to triumph so often but justice will have the last word provided we live and work for it.
To me these are some of the passages that the Good Friday/Easter Sunday archetype bring to awareness. There is no resurrection without visiting Hades (the story is that Saturday following his death Jesus visited the underworld). Good Friday rules for a short period. But the longer period is the new life and the victory over death and the fear of death that Easter Sunday represents. It is that hope that rises daily with every new sun. Moving beyond the fear of death we can live fully again and cease our immortality projects, our empire building and pyramid constructing (wall street too) and get on with…living. Which is sharing. Heschel: “Just to be is holy; just to live is a blessing.” Now our fear of death does not have to rule our lives. Now we can live fully, generously and creatively.