Dear Friends in Christ,
Eastertide continues. Christ still walks among us, resurrected from death and not yet ascended to heaven. At least, that is where we are in our liturgical life. Of course, all that happened two millennia ago, so Jesus clearly cannot be “walking among us.” And why would one say he “has not yet ascended” when that, too, occurred all those years ago? It all has a “time certain” place in history, after all.
And yet… and yet. We often proclaim in our celebrations of the Eucharist, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” (Eucharistic Prayer A) The choice of verb tenses is quite deliberate. Christ, after all, has died. That part does fit in the historical context. In fact, when you type “Christ is risen,” your spell check will tell you it is incorrect. (It just happened when I typed it!) “Risen” is past tense – hence the computer’s confusion. But for people of Faith, the resurrection is now, and in fact, is in the “now” of every minute of time – and in all of eternity. Yes, the Resurrection and Christ’s ascension to heaven happened in history (he has died), but the nature of the resurrected Christ is such that he has been a part of every moment of history since. He was, of course, as John so eloquently tells us, “before time and forevermore,” this Second Person of the Trinity. His Incarnation, his birth “in the flesh,” at Christmas brought him directly into the world in a new way, and, despite his “ascension into heaven,” he also remains here in his new body – the Body of Christ that is the Church. Hence, he “is risen.” Not merely in history, but in our lives, in our times, in our “now.” And then, having established that he has died and is risen, we further proclaim that “Christ will come again.” As people of Faith, we take the Holy Scriptures at their word that Christ will return again – sometimes thinking it may be in a glorious, triumphant arrival, and some- times thinking that it is always happening, that our being the Body of Christ makes his presence real all the time – once again in the “now” of our lives.
Eastertide is a great time to ponder this mystery – and to remember that the nature of mystery is that our minds, as sharp as they are, will not comprehend the deepest truths of the nature of God. Part of the appeal of our Faith, and in particular the practice of the Faith as the Liturgical Churches perceive and experience it, is the acceptance that at the heart of our relation- ship with God is the “unknowability” of God’s essence. The Divine Nature is so different than ours, so complex and all- encompassing, that we find ourselves blessed merely to catch glimpses of it, to experience it in bits and pieces, both in the sacraments and also in our relationships in day-to-day living.
And yet, as inaccessible as that makes it sound, the truth is that the Divine Nature actually lives in us as well. In our Baptisms, we receive the Holy Spirit who, from that point forward, “indwells in us.” We do not know God as a distant, un- knowable entity after all. We know God in our relationships with other of God’s children, as we “seek and serve Christ in all persons,” and as we “respect the dignity of every human being,” as we promised in our Baptismal Covenant.
In this Easter season, as we approach the Feast of the Ascension, let us remember anew that we know the Christ who has died, who is risen, and who will come again. And then, when the Great Fifty Days of Easter are over, let us strive to discover once again the remarkable events of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit first descended on the Apostles, “like tongues of flame,” enflaming their hearts and filling their minds and spirits with the knowledge of how to spread the Good News – and then giving them a burning desire to do so. May we, in our day, be so filled with “the fire in the belly” that makes us ache to make God’s love known.
Here’s to a blessed Eastertide and an empowering Pentecost!
In Christ’s Love,
P.S. If you would like to help with the “multi-lingual Gospel reading on Pentecost, May 24, please call the church office.