Post Easter Musing
As a child I recall asking my parents why, if Jesus rose from the dead, he is still hanging on the cross in Catholic churches. Now I am asking why Christians focus so much on the narrative of death and resurrection and ignore the radical teachings of Jesus. Could it be because those teachings challenge our way of life? Did Jesus really say that we should give up our wealth, feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and LOVE OUR ENEMIES???
As a Quaker, I have come to see the meaning of the resurrection in a new way. George Fox (1624-1691) said, “Christ has come to teach His people Himself.” To me that means that Christ (the inner Light, the inward teacher, the Seed) dwells within us and is directly available. The teachings continue.
I also see the death and resurrection story as deeply rooted in human cultural experience. As a college student reading The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer, I was amazed to learn that ancient practices in many places around the world included rituals of killing the divine king, or tree-spirit, or spirit of vegetation, and burying an effigy (a tree branch) which would then burst forth with new life. Placing the Christian narrative into this larger picture of seasonality, with the rebirth of life in the spring (in the Northern hemisphere, at least), helped me better understand it.
My joy at this time of year comes from seeing new life springing forth. In Fairbanks, Alaska, the physical manifestations are slower than elsewhere, but I sense around me evidence of spiritual awakening. This gives me hope.
This week I have been musing about the meaning of Equinox. Somehow, especially here in Alaska, calling a day between the 19th and 21st of March the “First Day of Spring” doesn’t quite cut it. In Fairbanks, at least, the ground is still covered with snow. The trees are not yet budding out, as they are in the Lower 48 states. There are no crocus or daffodils pushing up. What we DO have is more light. What blows my mind is the fact that at the Equinox, whether vernal or autumnal, there is equal, or almost equal, amounts of light and dark everywhere on the planet. If we tune in at all to celestial phenomena, that must mean something. In many places, where people live in cities and rule their days by work schedules, this event goes virtually unnoticed, but in Alaska it’s a big deal. From this point onward to the Summer Solstice, we rapidly gain daylight until there is no dark at all. If I were to create a ceremony to mark this event, I would want to have balance, equality, and a moment of stillness. I think about one of my favorite quotes from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets:
“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”
In the past I have used this quote to share with non-Quaker audiences what it is like to settle into silent worship. But today I see its relevance to the Equinox, the still point of the turning world.