Aside from the Church's liturgical texts, can anyone suggest resources for better understanding the nature of the Resurrection to combat the whole "Jesus is a zombie" blasphemy that's been going around lately? While my wife certainly doesn't subscribe to such a juvenile "understanding," she still struggles with the concept of the Resurrection of Jesus and our future general resurrection. This topic comes up annually (guess why
) and I'd like to engage her some more on the subject. I will, of course, be bringing up (again) St. Basil's analogy of the butterfly (from the Hexameron
) but would love to use some more examples or insights. Keep in mind that my wife is not as interested in theology as most of us here and I would therefore like to avoid the more heady works. The real stumbling block is the physical nature of the resurrected body and I know that comes from watching too many horror movies in the past.
Christ is risen!
How will it happen, how is this universal resurrection possible? The second lesson (I Corinthians 5:6, Galatians 3:13-14) gives the answer: "a little leaven leveneth the whole lump…" Christ, our Pascha, is this leaven of the resurrection of all. As His death destroys the very principle of death, His Resurrection is the token of the resurrection of all, for His life is the source of every life. And the verses of the "Alleluia," the same verses which will inaugurate the Easter service, sanction this final answer, the certitude that the time of the new creation, of the day without evening, has begun:
Alleluia! Let God arise! Let His enemies be scattered! Let those who hate Him flee from before His face ... Alleluia! As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish, as wax melts before the fire!
The reading of the prophecies is over. Yet, we have heard but prophecies. We are still in Great Saturday before Christ’s tomb, and we have to live through this long day, before we hear at midnight: "Christ is risen," before we enter into the celebration of His Resurrection. Thus, the third lesson — Matthew 27:62-66 — which completes the service, tells us once more about the Tomb — "which was made secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard."
But it is probably here, at the very end of Matins, that the ultimate meaning of this "middle day" is made manifest. Christ rose again from the dead, His Resurrection we will celebrate on (Pascha) Easter Day. This celebration, however, commemorates a unique event of the past, and anticipates a mystery of the future. It is already His Resurrection, but not yet ours. We will have to die, to accept the dying, the separation, the destruction. Our reality in this world, in this "aeon," is the reality of the Great Saturday; this day is the real image of our human condition. We believe in the Resurrection, because Christ has risen from the dead. We expect the Resurrection. We know that Christ’s death is no longer the hopeless, the ultimate end of everything. Baptized into His death, we partake already of His life that came out of the grave. We receive His Body and Blood which are the food of immortality. We have in ourselves the token, the anticipation of the eternal life. All our Christian existence is measured by these acts of communion to the life of the "new eon" of the Kingdom, and yet we are here, and death is our inescapable share.
But this life between the Resurrection of Christ and the day of the common resurrection, is it not precisely the life in the Great Saturday? Is not expectation the basic and essential category of Christian experience? We wait in love, hope and faith. And this waiting for "the resurrection and the life of the world to come," this life which is "hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:34), this growth of expectation in love, in certitude; all this is our own "Great Saturday." Little by little everything in this world becomes transparent to the light that comes from there, the "image of this world" passes by and this indestructible life with Christ becomes our supreme and ultimate value.
Every year, on Great Saturday, after this morning service, we wait for the Easter night and the fullness of Paschal joy. We know that they are approaching — and yet, how slow is this approach, how long is this day! But is not the wonderful quiet of Great Saturday the symbol of our very life in this world? Are we not always in this "middle day," waiting for the Pascha of Christ, preparing ourselves for the day without evening of His Kingdom?
Fr. Alexander Schmemann
"A Liturgical Explanation of Holy Week"http://holytrinityorthodox.org/lent/A-Liturgical-Explanation-of-Holy-Week.pdf