We know that Christ has risen from the dead because, despite all death and wound, love exists and love continues in the world. Charity is the new life of Easter.
What do I mean by that?
Recently I was at a conference given by Maya Angelou. She is the black American poetess who spoke at Bill Clinton’s inauguration.
Among other things, she told the story of her childhood. When she was seven years old, one night she was raped by a neighbour. She told her grandmother, who called the police. Her assailant was arrested and put in prison. Criminals within prisons have their own codes and one of them is that sex offenders are themselves often tortured and killed by fellow inmates. This was the case for her attacker. Soon after his arrest, his fellow prisoners murdered him.
Her seven year-old mind and heart, already severely traumatized by the rape, was not able to deal with this. Quite naturally, she blamed herself. The effect of this was so severe that for the next nearly ten years she was unable to speak. She was put into special schools, seen as handicapped, retarded, abnormal with all the psychological and social havoc that this wreaked. It is hard to imagine a more wounded and broken childhood than hers.
But she recovered, learned to speak again, and eventually has become a gifted speaker, opera singer, writer, and poet. More importantly, she became a woman of rare vibrancy, zest, graciousness, style, warmth, gratefulness, faith, and love – complete with an exceptional sense of humor and delight.
Looking at and listening to the Maya Angelou of today, it borders on the impossible to believe that she is the same person who endured her own childhood. When she speaks she tells you her secret; faith. But hers is a particular kind of faith, a faith in the resurrection. She has her own, one-line, wording for this: resiliency is the key to love.
Many of us remember a line from an old Joan Baez song: “He was just eighteen, proud and brave, when a Yankee laid him in his grave … I swear by the mud below my feet, you can’t raise a Caine back up when it’s in defeat!”
Listening to Maya Angelou’s story helped awaken in us, her listeners, the central tenet of our faith: You can raise life back up when it’s in defeat! There is resurrection and this puts all wound and death into a completely different focus. Resiliency is the key to love.
Stories like Maya Angelou’s are proof of the resurrection, proof that the grave of Christ was empty, proof that love is more resilient than the many things that crucify it. Love and laughter go on. Charity is the new life of Easter and resiliency is its key. In it, we see the resurrection of Christ, we see dead bodies rise from their graves, dead voices sing again, abused bodies delight again in joy, and wounded spirits grow strong again and forgive.