Thursday, January 01, 2009

Carnis Resurrectionem

If you recite, as I try to do, the BCP daily office, you will, twice daily, find yourself declaring that you "believe in the resurrection of the body."

At the heart of Christianity is the Incarnation, God's compassionate condescension into history and flesh. We celebrate this at Christmas; we participate in it each time we receive the Eucharist, becoming one conjoined body whose head is Christ. It is the one moment in which all my rational quibbles with the notion of Christ's resurrection dissolve. God is with us, in us, around us; in God we live and move and have our being. Christ: the Word that was God, the Word that became flesh, the flesh that was resurrected as enduring Word.

God is the absolute, unfathomable, unspeakably mysterious Ground of Being. Jesus is, well, more down to earth. And thank God for that. We need something to talk about, in a language we can understand. Christ is the Logos that says it all: birth, love, suffering, death. But resurrection ?

Jesus cut through the crap. Look, He said. It is really quite simple. Love God, and love one another. I am the Way. Whoever through love of God and neighbor attains the Father has, by definition, even if unwittingly, come through Me.

(Here, you may note, I am paraphrasing in a way that will prove disagreeable to some.)

If religion does not reflect reality, it is useless. That is what is so charming about Zen. Dogen said, Honey, it's really quite simple. Plop your butt down on your cushion, sit up straight, and think non-thinking.

Or, more canonically,

When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. But dharma is already correctly transmitted; you are immediately your original self.

That does not, of course, abolish the necessity of sitting Zen any more than the simple fact of rebirth in Christ at baptism abolishes the necessity of loving God and one another. Inherent grace must be actualized.

The Office is relentless in its reminders of death. Last night's Psalm 90 declares

Lord, you have been our refuge *
from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born, *
from age to age you are God.

You turn us back to the dust and say, *
"Go back, O child of earth."

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday
when it is past *
and like a watch in the night.

You sweep us away like a dream; *
we fade away suddenly like the grass.

In the morning it is green and flourishes; *
in the evening it is dried up and withered.

and, this morning, Psalm 103 takes up the theme once again

As a father cares for his children, *
so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

For he himself knows whereof we are made; *
he remembers that we are but dust.

Our days are like the grass; *
we flourish like a flower of the field;

When the wind goes over it, it is gone, *
and its place shall know it no more.

Dogen replies,

There are those who, attracted by grass, flowers, mountains and waters, flow into the buddha way.

But resurrection ? Of the body ?

Well, for starts, there is baptism. Little wonder that the Apostle's Creed forms the heart of the Baptismal Covenant.

We thank you , Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn in the Holy Spirit.

Then, of course, there is thinking non-thinking, the most apophatically macro of macro-photographies: not leaf, not cell, not organelle, not molecule, not atom, not space, not time, not light, not lens, not eye, yet somehow all of these, center and circumference, creator and created, the bright tissue of deathless Being --

yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

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