The Cross and the Resurrection
By The Hermits, May 1 2020 08:00PM
THE CROSS AND THE RESURRECTION
During this time when the deaths from the Coronavirus keep mounting especially in Western Europe and the US, whilst the World’s economies are being greatly affected by this extraordinary disease; as Christians are faced with locked churches, and the Sacraments in the main are denied to the faithful; as traditionalist and conservative Catholics understandably call on Bishops and priests to be real pastors in this time of dread; and as liberal/progressive Catholics continue their reckless pagan and New World Order agenda, we must look to Christ crucified and risen, to Christ who is our only hope, and whose stupendous glory cannot be hidden amidst the chaos of our inglorious and unprincipled world.
I survey the endless arguments on much of the Catholic Media with regard to the closure of churches, and the withdrawal of Communion, and when I consider what might be called the excessive Churchiness of so many Catholics, be they right or left, conservative or liberal, reactionary or progressive, orthodox or heretical, I am astonished at the torrent of words, the clash of arguments, the excess of passion and the sheer complexity of everything.
How far we are from Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, gently bearing Christ’s dead body to Joseph’s new tomb as the evening descends upon Calvary and day comes to its close. Their touching nobility and their courage, when all the apostles, bar John, had fled, is an inspiration to us all. How our hearts beat as one with the holy women, as they watch to see where Christ is laid so they that come after the Sabbath and embalm Christ’s body in a worthy manner. Do we not also experience the fear and the shame of Christ’s handpicked men, the Apostles, whose cowardice is highlighted by the two middle-aged men, Joseph and Nicodemus, who come out in the open and declare that they are friends and disciples of Jesus when he has suffered the worst of deaths known in the ancient world, and for supposed blasphemy? Cannot we have some of Mary Magdalen’s ardour as she tries to find the body of Jesus, and then be surprised by The Saviour appearing to us in the same way? Like Mary we want to cling to Christ, but like her we must realize that He must return to His Heavenly Father and so take his place in the glory of the Trinity. Wouldn’t we want to run like Peter and John to the tomb, and in finding it empty we too realize that Christ is risen, Satan is defeated and the gates of Heaven thrown open to all men. Nothing can stand in Christ’s way, nothing. I remember how beautifully this was portrayed in Pasolini’s film The Gospel of St. Luke, which he dedicated to the memory of St. John XXIII. The sight of Peter and John running to the tomb was exhilarating.
In all the astounding rubbish spoken by disbelieving globalists, or worse still by globalists who are pursuing a Satanic agenda; in all the endless controversies as to how the Church should respond to Corona, and the worries of people about their inability to receive Communion or go to Confession; in all the pain and loss during the present time, and in all the near despair and loneliness that people are feeling in this world of lock down and social distancing: there is Christ, glorious, triumphant and closer to ourselves than we are. He sits on his throne in all his glory and grandeur, but he is still our friend and brother; infinite in his love for us, and tender beyond all our imaginings. He is still God.
Perhaps it is because we have lost that wonder of knowing Christ in our lives that somehow he has been disguised amidst all the devotions, and even amidst the sacraments. It is as if we have been watching home videos of a loved one, looking through photo albums, or hearing the voice of that person, when in reality we can go and visit him or her. Great though the sacraments are, wonderful though many devotions are, they must lead us to Christ, and if we receive the body and blood of Our Lord unworthily, we will surely go to Hell, and sadly this is the case of millions upon millions of Catholics.
If we want to know what our relationship with Christ should be we might turn to the Book of Esther to look for inspiration and guidance in our spiritual lives. Like Queen Esther we must walk through the different and magnificent rooms of the great palace of Susa before we enter the throne room of Xerxes, the King of Persia, and at that time the most powerful man in the world . If we see Xerxes as a type of Christ then we must never forget for a moment that we are in the presence of the most High God at every moment of our lives. The Risen Christ is the same as he was when he was alive, walking the dusty roads of Palestine 2000 years ago, but now his Divinity has been seen, and is experienced in a wonderful way since The Resurrection. This is beyond human comprehension, and that must always be in our thoughts. There are some things that must be left in the realm of mystery. For too long the Church in the West, and especially the Papacy, feel that they have to understand and explain everything. This then is the bitter fruit of scholasticism which is a prying into things that we are not meant to, the sin of Eve’s curiosity. The Orthodox East has not made such a mistake.
Returning to Esther, we see her going before her husband, the great Xerxes, to plead for her life and the life of her people, in it we have a vision of what it means to come before the living God.
“And it happened on the third day, when she ceased praying, she took off the garments of the solemnity, and put on her glorious apparel. And having become resplendent, appealing to the all-seeing God and Saviour, she took with her two favourite maids. Upon the one she leaned as an elegant woman and the other maid followed behind her, bearing her train. She was aglow in the perfection of her beauty. Her face was radiant and lovely, but her heart shrank with fear. And having entered through all the doors, she stood face to face with the king. He was sitting on his royal throne, clothed in all his glorious apparel, covered with gold and precious stones. He was awesome. And as he looked up, resplendent in his glory, at the very edge of anger, the queen collapsed, her complexion paled, and she slumped against the head of the maid who went before her. But God changed the spirit of the king to gentleness. And full of great concern, he leapt from his throne and held her in his arms until she recovered. He comforted her with calming words and said to her, “Esther, what is it? I am your brother. Be of good cheer! You are not going to die because of this usual ordinance. Come near!” And lifting his golden scepter, he laid it upon her neck, and he embraced her and said, “Speak to me.” (Esther 5: vv. 1-8, The Orthodox Study Bible)
How is it that we have so often lost him amidst the sacraments, these seven great channels of grace instead of making Christ more present to us have had the opposite effect? We have not gone before Him with the humility and fear and trembling that we see Esther going before her husband, Xerxes. Though she is the wife and queen of the most powerful King in the World she does not presume on her status.
Part of the problem is that since the 1960’s and the sexual revolution and the radicalization of Western middle class by the liberal agenda so beloved of the utterly destructive Frankfurt school, Che Guevara and those of a like mind, a false sense of brotherhood combined with a familiarity that diminishes respect, so too has this affected our relationship Christ. He is not our buddy with whom we can hang out, nor is he a sort of Hollywood star. He is often addressed as Lord in the Gospels and he is the one who calms the storms, raises the dead, heals the sick and forgives sinners.
I think it fair to say that it is because we have so often failed to get to know him through reading the Gospels, through prayer, and above all through wishing to be true disciples of the God Man. Instead we have become obsessed with different spiritualities. We have become intellectually lazy in the West, which has oddly had the effect of making Theology a highly academic and professional pursuit, but such things hinder a true relationship with Christ. When that happens, then technology and science seem to offer us everything.
Just as we feel that we have everything and a freedom from all restraint, especially in the domain of sexual appetite, which uncontrolled by marriage has created a demonic and terrible world, when the spirit is all but suffocated, suddenly we are confronted by a virus, which though not the deadliest, has changed our whole way of life, which has been disrupted to a degree that we could never have imagined. We have tried to follow the flesh, which has led so many Christians, be they Catholics on one end of the spectrum and Evangelicals on the other, to become too familiar with Our Lord and God. The use of pop music and rock music in so much worship will have helped this coarsening of our spiritual lives. We must remember that Christ in the Apocalypse is the same Person as lived in Palestine all those centuries ago. We must sense great awe even when we are most intimate with the God who died for us. His sacrifice and his Cross must never be far from our minds, and must dwell all the time in our hearts which remember Christ’s inconceivable love for us, that love which will be the wonder of Heaven for all eternity.
The Apocalypse opens with John on one Sunday praying and then hearing a voice:
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke to me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at his feet as dead. But He laid his right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am he who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and Death. (Apocalypse 1: vv. 12-18)
Dear friends and readers if we do not have something of John’s response to the Risen Christ who fainted with awe, then we are in danger of not being truly grateful for his immense love for us shown to us as he hangs dying on the Cross. Let us then be eternally grateful that God died for us upon the Cross and respond as best we can. “Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed.”
Father Stephen Joseph, on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker