Passion Sunday 2010

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

“Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honor my Father.”

Whenever we reflect upon the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, however those images may be seared within our own minds, we cannot but be touched by the trembling hands of the most deep, abiding sorrow. It is fitting that we should pray for the dead, that they be in the rest of peace, as they ascend by the angels into the light of heavenly love. Yet, at the same time, we know that death is a most wretched occurrence. It is convulsed in very real pain, sorrow, and loss. It is unavoidable – a reminder that our lives are not our own, no matter how much of ourselves, our souls and bodies, that we may put into our affairs. In the inevitable march of time, all will be lost; it is madness to conceive otherwise – first the body of a man, then the memories of his life, finally even the ideas he championed. I think, in this context, of the stoic bearing of our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln, who in witnessing the grandeur of Niagara Falls then remarked: “Upon this ground once stood the wooly mammoth.” A beast had died; its very species passed into extinction; indeed, in due time, even the falls themselves, which the beast presumably saw but could never hope to understand, would be no more. This too shall pass, our President was saying; it is only fitting that it should be so, because such is the judgment of Almighty God, who as the God of the living upholds death as the wage of sin.

In a manner, then, the Passion of Christ is so very normal. We know the suffering of Mary, when we remember or foresee the loss of our child; we know as well the suffering of John, the Beloved Disciple, when we remember or foresee the loss of our parent. Finally, we fear that, in the quiet moment before our own last breath, we may feel the need to cry out: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Is it inevitable that we be tinged with vinegar, rather than soothed with water, that we be pierced on our side, rather than remembered as intact, hearty, and strong? If this is so, as in fact our own life experiences tell us, then we must ask ourselves: Why sorrow? Why cry for that final loss that cannot be otherwise?

We cry, because we know deep down inside, by our very own natures, and by the account of the fall of Adam in the Book of Genesis, that it was not meant to be this way. We are meant to live, abundantly and in eternity, as an expression of our enduring relationship to the God who walks beside Man in the bushes of the Garden of Eden. It is our birthright, our manner of being in the image and likeness of God Himself. That we have forsaken that life, in order to embrace death, is as much farce as tragedy. We cannot abide it. Like the man who forsakes the woman he is meant to love, in order to wallow without joy in the arms of the harlot, and who then smears the memory of that woman, in order vainly to excuse his sad debauchery, so we too endeavor to forget that death is our own doing. We may sneer at the Samaritan, who has sold his birthright by intermarrying with Gentiles and adopting the false, pagan gods of his neighbors, but in fact we are Samaritans. We may deride that Christ has a devil, but in fact that treacherous liar is our prince, and we choose every day to drink of his seductive wine, the tonic by which we may forget our true inheritance in Our Father. In this world, there is only loss, the passing away of the wooly mammoths. If we believe that this cup may be passed from our own lips, then we are as dangerous and foolhardy as the worst of the Gnostics. We then forsake piety for the assuredness that our own lives will be glorified by a fawning posterity; we ignore the cross, because we believe that we may avoid death on our own merits, replacing its bitter tinge with the rather quaint softness of just “passing away.” These are all delusions of course; but without Christ, who alone honors the Father, and restores the real, living inheritance, which we have forsaken, we cannot but be ensnared in this sordid web of self-deceit. Conversely, in Christ, we face death head on, acknowledging it to be what it really is, and yet we do so with the good cheer of knowing that Christ Jesus indeed has overcome the world.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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