Tuesday, 11 April 2006

doing Easter

Airline passengers arriving in Dublin will, as they leave the airport, pass a billboard poster advertising the Airbus A350 airplane. I have observed this several times and remain unsure of what it is there for. I don’t suppose we are being invited to consider purchasing one of these quality items. But maybe some bright spark at Airbus Industrie SA thought it would make a neat and rather exclusive gift; and in that case the decision to put up the poster around the Feast of the Epiphany (which is when it first appeared) made some sense.

Perhaps it is still possible to take the currents and rhythms of modern life and set them into the context of the church year. The Wise Men did not turn up in Bethlehem bearing the gift of an intercontinental jetliner, but even in our secular culture we have heard the references to gold, frankincense and myrrh enough to feel that what they did bring still has a contemporary resonance, and we can track the Christmas narrative into today’s world, including the world of commerce.

But is that true of the Passion and — if we can mention it gently during this week — the Resurrection? Dublin airport is still advertising the A350 today — so you have not missed your chance to take the special offer — and inside the terminal building the shops and other outlets are full of suggestions for gifts and delicacies ‘for this family season of giving’ (as one poster there suggests). I remember Dublin as recently as the mid-1980s, when you would in Holy Week hear only sombre music on the radio and see edifying black and white films on the television. Now all is changed, and Holy Week has become another great shopping opportunity, with Good Friday now one of the most lucrative days in retailing outside of the pre-Christmas season. Conversely Sunday and Monday will be rather quiet, and in Ireland there will only be a rather smaller number of people preparing for what for them is one of the absolute highlights of the year: the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.

As Anglicans, we believe that the Passion and the Resurrection are indispensable ingredients of the Christian narrative, and complete the story of the Incarnation. Is this a message we can no longer communicate to the wider world, leaving what is left of Christianity in the sentimental state to which it is consigned by the makers of Christmas cards?

In fact, religion as a Disney product doesn’t work. We understand the ups and downs of life, and the story of the Passion has its own resonances in today’s world of famine and terror and tyranny. The planes that brought you to exotic holidays also destroyed the World Trade Centre on 9/11. In Ireland specifically, Easter has a strong historical association with passion and redemption, from Easter 1916 to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. All these associations are still there, but the church has become bad at prompting them in the public mind.

I fear we have become bad at ‘doing Easter’, and sometimes are uncomfortable with the Passion. This Good Friday, as on every Good Friday, I shall find myself moved again as I approach the great Cross during the Liturgy of the Passion. Maybe I shall make just a bit more of an effort not to come to that alone. I don’t necessarily mean that I shall ask my secular friends to accompany me — though perhaps I should — but I shall bring into church with me just a little bit of the world of Easter eggs and special April gifts, and the world of all those travellers on the A350, and maybe I shall take back out with me just a little bit of the Cross, and the great gift of Him who hung thereon.

Posted by Ferdinand von Prondzynski on Tuesday, 11 April 2006 at 8:00am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: just thinking
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The dilemma of Doing Easter for a thinking believer now mostly boils down to the fact that way too much Penal Atonement Theory blocks the doors to understanding, not least to celebration.

This Aztec framing of the way that God saves us makes Yahweh equivalent to the Sun God, except that Yahweh of course is the real Sun God; therefore, Jesus is the Real Victim whose heart must be torn out so that only the suffering of the purest can appease the Real Wrathful Sun God.

Thank goodness that this is not just where the theological buck stops. Otherwise, the real and deep scandalon of the cross would be reduced to gruesome Disney Religion, indeed.

To get a start on another modern emerging view of just what sort of Atonement we give ourselves to participate in, in faith, see the link at: http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/.

I not only can understand this perspective on Atonement without becoming too nearly Aztec as a Christian believer, I can actually discern in my own daily lived experiences the sorts of ways that this newer understanding of Atonement/Reconcilitation actually works in modern human global life.

Since the modern world is every bit as violent in its own self-justifying ways as the crucifixions of the ancient Roman Empire were, we are hardly free from considering violence in connection with either our daily lives with one another, or how human violence affects our individual and collective relationship to God. It is just so nice to begin to discern some other way to approach Jesus' crucifixion, faithful to its Jewish roots in temple sacrifice, without having to conclude that God's answer to human violence is the best possible divine violence. (See essay at: http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/eng11.html.)

To the cross and the tomb, then, for these are indeed too much with us still, in modern daily life all around our planet. We face global violence, because we believers know that Easter morning awaits, and that the diligent women are coming towards us in this mysterious flow of sacred time, to tell us what we hardly dare to believe as we men conduct business as usual - in Penal Atonement Theories, our violence in doing justice can try to mirror God's perfect violence? No?

Well then, are we created to be divinely superior to these women who now return from the tomb? Shall the higher ones listen to the unconfirmed, unverified witness of the lower ones, just because some women report bearing messages from God?

Nevetheless, these women are meant by God to be our first Easter witnesses. Thank goodness, thank God. I shall at least have a listen. Maybe I will hear some good news for a change.

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 11 April 2006 at 4:42pm BST

I live in Central America.

One of the Wonders of the World should be the processions of Samana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala (take a peek/search on the computer)...the churchs from most of the aldeas (suberbs) and the BIG churches in the Antigua (San Francisco el Grande is my favorite along with La Merced and Escuela de Cristo) have their special time/day to carry huge statues of Christ who is portrayed at various "stages of the cross" (depending on the day) on platforms of precious hardwoods weighing thousands of pounds and some of them require thousands of purple hooded boys/men to carry them in rotation (they pay for this honor as a act of humility) on 10 hour trips throughout the city ...Antigua is jammed with tens of thousands of visitors moving about the hundreds of authentic Spanish Colonial churchs, government buildings and private homes draped in swags of purple cloth (that changes to BLACK on Good Friday)...surviving/restored Spanish Colonial buildings with cobbled stone streets gridded outward from the Central Park and the old Cathedral. The atomosphere here is filled with fragrant blooming trees, walls climbing with boganvilla and other flowers. Incense is whafting non-stop and thousands of firecrackers are continously being set-off on these Summerlike days/nights...funeral music is played behind every platform by mournful sounding brass bands as they make their way swaying slowly down the streets...they pause only at the corners to engineer and change the carriers and then take the "turn" as they make the sharp right angles with their precious cargos of faith, art and tradition. At each block families and other groups/fraternities of people have created very large and beautiful sawdust/flower petal, bright colored "alfombras/rugs" in front of their homes/organizations on the street. Intricate patterns are "woven" through the rugs that actually look perfectly dazzling and stunning with their religious symbols and stylized animals from nature and folklore worked through the varied designs...every "alfombra" is different and everyone of them is destroyed as the procession trudges by/over them making their way down the narrow cobbled streets. These traditional, historical, remarkable, loving and moving acts of Christian pagent are alive in Antigua, Guatemala each day and night of Holy Week to encourage everyone to deeply remember and celebrate the Passion and Resurrection of Christ...when the platform bearing Christ returns to the church late at night He is awaited by hundreds of people standing in the nave and pews...as the procession returns home and enters the door of the church people fall to their knees in welcoming respect...the band plays on and it the spirtual experience leaves me with a feeling of Thanksgiving and well-being...there is not a jet airplane or a picture of a jet airplane anywhere in the Valley of Panchoy.

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Tuesday, 11 April 2006 at 5:36pm BST
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