Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Lord: Chapter 63, “The Resurrection”

Dear friend,

It’s amazing to me how we twist a legitimate human yearning for the divine into everything from fascination with sci-fi films to addiction to drugs. We can sit through movies like “Loopers” or, back in the day, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” swallowing the most outlandish hypotheses about reality, with or without mind-altering substances, while refusing to take even a second look at the Resurrection.

What about the Resurrection is any more preposterous than three minutes of the average Hollywood movie? But movies are fantasies, we protest! Yes, and we give them our total credence, ourselves, our souls. Why are we so stubbornly insistent that Jesus could not have risen from the dead? Or that by doing so he conquered death for us?

Though he admits that “our immediate reaction [to the Resurrection] has always been one of natural protest,” Romano Guardini’s chapter on the events of Easter morning is actually one of the clearest in The Lord. Guardini begins by making sense of the “contrasts and contradictions” in the varying Gospel reports by laying them out “in the probable order of events.” Then he dismisses several dismissive theories of the Resurrection, before insisting that Christian faith must stand or fall with it. The Resurrection, he writes, “is the center of our religion.”

Understanding the Resurrection, he suggests, brings us to the “most difficult task of Christian thought: that of understanding The Lord’s existence.” Though the “simplest Christian” may understand the Lord “through participation in the community of grace,” we are obliged to try to understand with our conscious minds as well. Two traps await the thinking Christian: psychologizing Jesus and dogmatizing about him. “Only he is really successful who on the one hand never loses touch with the living figure of The Lord, appreciating his humanity at every step; yet on the other, is constantly aware of the fact that this appreciation is at all times subject to explosion by something that is not only the greatness of genius or the dynamism of religious experience, but holy God himself.”

Which leads me to what I said at the opening: If Steven Spielberg, who is human, can make a person fly, why couldn’t Jesus, who is God, come back to life after being crucified? It’s all a question of what we are willing to believe, isn’t it?

If we consider Christianity without the Resurrection, says Guardini, “what remains will be little more than very thin ethics and piety.” There is an alternative, he writes: “The alternative is to realize in our own lives what Christ’s whole existence demands: faith. Then we understand that he did not come to bring us new but world-born truths and experiences, but to free us from the spell which the world has cast over us.” Faith, he says, involves a “complete reversal,” which no longer judges Christ with worldly eyes, but sees the world and everything in and around it with his eyes.

“Then we do not say: There is no such thing as the return to life of one who has died; therefore the Resurrection is a myth, but: Christ rose again; therefore resurrection is possible, and his Resurrection is the foundation of the true world.”

For myself, I’d rather see the Resurrection that way.

Yours truly,

This series of posts on Romano Guardini’s book The Lord continues here with chapter 64

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