Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The First Glorious Mystery ~ The Resurrection of Jesus

This image of the Resurrection ~ Ascension of Jesus was painted by Matthias Grunewald in 1512 as part of a much larger altarpiece for the Monastery of Saint Anthony at Isenheim. This monastery operated a hospital which cared for victims of the plague and other life threatening skin ailments.

In the center of the altarpiece the crucified Jesus is depicted covered with sores, lesions and thorns. His body is racked with pain and appears to be in the early stages of decay. Grunewald knew his painting would be viewed by people who were dying terrible deaths. His image conveyed to them that in Jesus Christ, God understands our human suffering, having shared in it fully. A friend visited the altarpiece, which remains in a chapel setting, and said, "The crucifix stunned me and took my breath away when I first saw it. I felt compelled to stay and look at it for hours and returned to it over the course of several days." 

The image of the Resurrection is painted on one of the side doors or wings. Grunewald has indeed combined the moments of Jesus Resurrection and Ascension. The enormous stone has been rolled back and Jesus is raised up above the ground in a great circle of variously colored light. He seems to dance above death, darkness and decay. Perhaps we're familiar with the song I Danced in the Morning.

 I danced in the morning
when the world was begun
and I danced in the moon
and the stars and the sun,
and I came down from heaven
and I danced on the earth,
at Bethlehem
I had my birth.

I danced on a Friday
when the sky turned black;
it's hard to dance
with the devil on your back.
They buried my body
and they thought I'd gone,
but I am the Dance,
and I still go on.

They cut me down
and I leapt up high
I am the life
that'll never, never die;
I'll live in you
if you 'll live in me -
I am the Lord
of the Dance, said he.
As the gospel relates, the soldiers of the Roman Empire who were guarding the tomb of Jesus, were knocked to the ground on Easter Morning. Here they appear to be reptilian. We don't see their faces but are taken with their armor and weapons, all of which seem to be rather stupid, useless and ugly. We might think of  military displays all around the world: choreographed soldiers on parade in long processions of  expensive state of the art  fighting machines, guarantors of victory in these days of perpetual war.

Our Father, Who art in heaven...

Some people are quick to raise questions that oppose religion: "Did Jesus really rise from the dead?" without thought of the bigger, more pressing questions surrounding the death of our own passions and the increase of lived-goodness within ourselves.

Hail Mary, full of grace...

After the Second World War a submarine pilot reflected on the 14,000 women, children and injured enemy soldiers who died when he targeted a civilian ship: "This is war. It was your turn, now it's ours." We become insane in war. The Resurrection of Jesus says: We can change!

Hail Mary, full of grace...

The stone is rolled away to show that Jesus is not there. The angel sat on the stone as if to say, The contest is over and death is the loser. I should want to jump up and cheer!

Hail Mary, full of grace...

The soldiers outside the tomb fell down. Our defenses are useless before Christ. Even imperial powers and arsenals fall. It's all down for the count in the light of Christ's Resurrection. Now we wait in joyful hope for the full and final realization of this victory.

Hail Mary, full of grace...

Jesus is not gone from us, here for awhile and then history. Jesus isn't just a good memory and a nice example. But Christ is risen and wants to be alive in the hearts of all Christians.

Hail Mary, full of grace...

Can a woman forget her nursing child, the Prophet Isaiah asks. Saint Juliana of Norwich calls Jesus, our Mother. This Mother doesn't forget us, not for a moment. But Christ has come back even from death to take us to a new kind of life and new joy.

Hail Mary, full of grace...

The first people to whom the angel announced the birth of Jesus, were shepherds in Bethlehem. And the first to be told by the angel of Jesus' Resurrection were the spice-bearing women of Easter morning. The Lord loves the humble heart.

Hail Mary, full of grace...

The disciples on the road to Emmaus on Easter evening were full of disillusionment. And Jesus started to walk with them. He walks with me too in my own despair  and sad projecting and shares the new life that is within him. Oh Jesus, open my eyes too (Luke 24: 13-35).

Hail Mary, full of grace...

Do not be amazed, the Easter angel said to the women. Do not be amazed that the Resurrected Jesus has overcome sorrow, anguish and every power we call darkness. Look for traces of this victory everyday and wait, with a happy heart, for the day when God's Kingdom in fully revealed and experienced.

Hail Mary, full of grace...

In his Easter rising Jesus has gone through death to fullness of life. Even his body is included. This religion of mine is all about life. I ask Jesus to grow-me-up to the full life God has envisioned for me.

Hail Mary, full of grace...

Glory be to the Father...

Clematis ~ Mary's Bower

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