Old School Easter Wisdom

20 Apr

I teach at a small Christian college. Weekly there is message sent out by email that reminds the students and staff of our “common life together” and the different ways we can see our connection to one another and to the world through our Christ-centered view. Right after our Easter break this was posted and I share it with you. Updike, the author of the piece was known as an American novelist and poet and literary critic. He was a Pulitzer Prize winner for his fiction more than once. He once described his religious life as a “tour of Protestantism” having been raised as the son of a Lutheran Minister, but evolving over time by practicing his worship in other Protestant traditions. The piece written in mid-century America has word power!

“Seven Stanzas at Easter” by John Updike (1960)

Make no mistake: if he rose at all

It was as His body;

If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,

The amino acids rekindle,

The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,

Each soft spring recurrent;

It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the

Eleven apostles;

It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes

The same valved heart

That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered

Out of enduring Might

New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,

Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,

Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded

Credulity of earlier ages:

Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,

Not a stone in a story,

But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of

Time will eclipse for each of us

The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,

Make it a real angel,

Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in

The dawn light, robed in real linen

Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,

For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,

Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed

By the miracle,

And crushed by remonstrance.

TO THIS MESSAGE I SAY, “AMEN.”

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