Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Two Entwined Events of the Easter Experience

"Jesus is Laid in the Tomb" by Ted De Garzia.

This year for Holy Week I'll be sharing three excerpts from Cletus Wessels, O.P.'s 2003 book Jesus in the New Universe Story.

This first excerpt today focuses on the two events that Wessels reminds us are entwined in the biblical accounts of the Easter experience.

The resurrection of Jesus does not depend on an empty tomb, because the resurrection of Jesus is an act of God, which is neither visible nor tangible in any simple, empirical sense, and because it involves not merely the transformation of Jesus but also the transformation and conversion of the earliest Christians. The two events are entwined in the biblical accounts we now have available. Extricating them by crude means we have at our disposal in historical studies is a task beyond our capacities twenty centuries after the events recounted by the biblical narratives occurred. And yet the story of the empty tomb is a marvelous symbol or icon of the resurrection, one that gives us a visual memory of the transformation of Jesus and our own transformation from death to new life. No one knows just how Jesus was buried, nor exactly how he rose, but we must begin with the assumption of an ordinary burial site and then seek to unfold the likely process that led to the writing of the biblical stories in the middle seventies of the first century.

Jesus has died. Jesus has been buried in a shallow, common grave. The male disciples have seemingly scattered and returned to Galilee. The women of the Jesus community stayed behind to mourn the death of Jesus (all four Gospels testify to this), and their ongoing grief would have been expected in the Jewish and Middle East tradition. Indeed, in many parts of the world, both in the past and today, women keen and publicly mourn the dead.

Before me as I write is The Way of the Cross, a series of oil paintings by Ted De Grazia. The fourteenth station, "Jesus is Laid in the Tomb," depicts a circle of women obviously in deep mourning around a shrouded body. The shrouded body is filmy white and lies on the ground or on a slightly raised platform. When I first saw this painting, I thought it portrayed the history remembered of these women companions of Jesus who gathered, as women always do, at the grave site. But then something happened! In the midst of their mourning, the women became aware of the presence of the living Jesus around them and within them. Was this a trance, that altered state of consciousness, which for them, and is, a common experience among cultures? Was it a dream, or was it a visual appearance of the living Jesus? No one knows! But whatever this experience of the risen Jesus involved, it had a profound impact on these women and on the entire Jesus community.

The fifteenth station by De Grazia, "Jesus Rises from the Dead," shows an upright Jesus still shrouded in white. His head is surrounded by a golden glow, and the women are joyfully dancing around him in a native dance. He has been raised. They must have hurried off to share this joyful news with the Jesus community. To me, this is history remembered, even though it is already history interpreted.

Cletus Wessels, O.P.
pp. 87-88

"Jesus Rises from the Dead" by Ted De Grazia.

For The Wild Reed's 2014 Holy Week series (featuring excerpts from John Neafsey's book A Sacred Voice is Calling: Personal Vocation and Social Conscience), see:
"To Die and So to Grow"
The Way of the Wounded Warrior
Suffering and Redemption
A God With Whom It is Possible to Connect
A Discerning Balance Between Holiness and Wholeness: A Hallmark of the Resurrected Life

For The Wild Reed's 2013 Holy Week series (featuring excerpts from Albert Nolan’s book Jesus Before Christianity, accompanied by images of Jesus that some might call "unconventional"), see:
Jesus: The Upside-down Messiah
Jesus: Mystic and Prophet
Jesus and the Art of Letting Go
Within the Mystery, a Strange and Empty State od Suspension
Jesus: The Revelation of Oneness

For The Wild Reed's 2012 Holy Week series (featuring excerpts from Cynthia Bourgeault's book The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – A New Perspective on Christ and His Message), see:
The Passion: "A Sacred Path of Liberation"
Beyond Anger and Guilt
Judas and Peter
No Deeper Darkness
When Love Entered Hell
The Resurrected Jesus . . .

For The Wild Reed's 2011 Holy Week series (featuring excerpts from Albert Nolan’s book Jesus Before Christianity, accompanied by images of various cinematic depictions of Jesus), see:
"Who Is This Man?"
A Uniquely Liberated Man
An Expression of Human Solidarity
No Other Way
Two Betrayals
And What of Resurrection?
Jesus: The Breakthrough in the History of Humanity
To Believe in Jesus

For The Wild Reed’s 2010 Holy Week series (featuring excerpts from Andrew Harvey’s book Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ), see:
Jesus: Path-Blazer of Radical Transformation
The Essential Christ
One Symbolic Iconoclastic Act
One Overwhelming Fire of Love
The Most Dangerous Kind of Rebel
Resurrection: Beyond Words, Dogmas and All Possible Theological Formulations
The Cosmic Christ: Brother, Lover, Friend, Divine and Tender Guide

For The Wild Reed’s 2009 Holy Week series (featuring the artwork of Doug Blanchard and the writings of Marcus Borg, James and Evelyn Whitehead, John Dominic Crossan, Andrew Harvey, Francis Webb, Dianna Ortiz, Uta Ranke-Heinemann and Paula Fredriksen), see:
The Passion of Christ (Part 1) – Jesus Enters the City
The Passion of Christ (Part 2) – Jesus Drives Out the Money Changers
The Passion of Christ (Part 3) – Last Supper
The Passion of Christ (Part 4) – Jesus Prays Alone
The Passion of Christ (Part 5) – Jesus Before the People
The Passion of Christ (Part 6) – Jesus Before the Soldiers
The Passion of Christ (Part 7) – Jesus Goes to His Execution
The Passion of Christ (Part 8) – Jesus is Nailed the Cross
The Passion of Christ (Part 9) – Jesus Dies
The Passion of Christ (Part 10) – Jesus Among the Dead
The Passion of Christ (Part 11) – Jesus Appears to Mary
The Passion of Christ (Part 12) – Jesus Appears to His Friends

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