Spring and Easter, a conspiracy between nature and religion, creation and redemption, to make newness, to thaw things out, to rejuvenate and re-virginize, to make sunshine, to warm frozen places, and to produce new buds on the trees and new enthusiasm in the heart! It’s the season of the resurrection. At the end of winter, sometime after the first equinox, God is hard at it, melting earth and melting hearts.
We celebrate many things with Easter. The resurrection is not just the mystery of Christ rising from the dead and of our future rising from the dead. It’s life’s spring, the event and power that brings new life out of what’s been crucified by winter, from what’s died, from what lies frozen and lifeless. Like nature needs spring each year, so, too, we need regular resurrections. Much in us lies frozen, crucified, lifeless. Elie Wiesel once said: “Life and death are not separate domains, they meet in us, though not in God. It is possible to live with death: all one needs to do is to turn one’s back on living. It is possible to be dead and not know it.” It is possible to be dead and not know it, to be asleep and still think we are awake, to be bitter as a slave and still think we are loving.
Physical death, for most of us, comes last. First, there is the long series of other deaths, of crucifixions, of freezings over. In this, too, we follow the pattern of what happened in Christ. Christ came as God’s perfect image, the most precious, most sensitive, most special human being ever. It was that, the uniqueness and goodness, which was crucified. It is that that still gets crucified, in us. It is precisely in those areas of our lives where we bear God’s image the most perfectly, where we are most precious, most sensitive and most special, that, invariably, we get crucified. What’s calloused, tough, homogenized, survives, living on, helping us go through the motions of life; our automatic pilot in death. But what is most precious in us ends up in a tomb: A dream crucified, a Christ entombed, a winter set in, a human being frozen over. Before being buried in our graves we are, largely, buried in our lives.
Mainly because of this, we begin to sin. Our infidelities, our lack of gratitude, our lack of prayer, our propensity to misunderstand and to hurt each other, our need to lie and rationalize, and our excessive self-preoccupations, occur mostly because what’s best in us, the image of God, lies frozen (assets we cannot touch). Our poverty and bitterness come from that. And so we begin to settle for second best. We make do: a life without enthusiasm, without fire, with passion quieted, with joy frozen. We despair, not by suicide, but by protest, protesting that our lives are without new possibilities: “If you really knew what my life is like, you wouldn’t tell me I could be happy!” Eventually, hope fades into agnosticism. Agnosticism invariably turns to despair. Bitterly, we accept our limits: “This is the way I am, this is the way things are, this is the way it has always been. This is the way it will always be!” Nothing can surprise us anymore. We know what is possible for us, and what is possible in no way approximates our dreams.
So we live on, far from fully alive, on automatic pilot, the Christ in us lying in the tomb, what’s most precious in us frozen under bitterness. There is darkness at the end of the tunnel, save for one thing: Spring and resurrection! Every spring, a warm sun reappears and nature and ourselves are given the opportunity to unthaw, to resurrect. Some years back, I received an Easter card which contained only these simple words: “May you leave behind you a string of empty tombs!” That’s the challenge of Easter: To resurrect daily, to leave behind us a string of empty tombs, to let our crucified hopes and dreams be resurrected so that, like Christ, our lives will radiate that, in the end, everything is good, reality can be trusted, love does triumph over apathy and hatred, togetherness over loneliness, peace over chaos, and forgiveness over bitterness. We need regular resurrections. Spring and the resurrection are the season to let ourselves be unthawed, to revirginize, to come to second naivete, to think young again, to give the child in us scope again, to be open again to new possibilities, to surprise, to a new frolic under the sun after a cold bitter time.
Nature, all of it including ourselves, is incredibly resilient, incredibly resurrectable. Given any chance, life wins out, brokenness heals, bitterness melts, new seeds form and life bursts forth from what once appeared to be dead. Crucifixions, bitterness and winters will come, but spring and resurrection are arsonists, both of them. So, as a song once perfectly put it:
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose.
Spring and Easter, 1986. May we all leave behind us a string of empty tombs.