Sunday, April 12, 2009

Christos Anesti!

Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, He is not here. (Mark 16:6) This painting originates from the chapel Marino Zorzi in the mortuary church of San Michele di Murano. It was attributed to Cima da Conegliano, then to Previtali, Bartolomeo Veneto and Basaiti. The painting was acquisited by the Berlin Museums in 1903 and after a thorough cleansing Bellini was unambiguously established as the author.

In this painting the artist follows Northern currents in his scrutiny of nature. Mystical yet realistic, his combination of faith and focus gives the painting a singularly convincing quality, its theme of resurrection a comforting one for the painting's funerary setting.

Today is Easter. Meditation, not to mention sermons and Sunday school discussions focused today on the resurrection, as to be expected. I have really made a point to get into the Bible's messages during Lent and, for the first time in my life, have allowed the events of the Holy Week to be absorbed, empathized. It is for this reason that I feel a 'lifting' of sorts this day. I really was in mourning the past two days. I was emotionally moved today in church while singing. I know that sounds crazy. I have thrown myself into the Gospels, the history, and the literature and it is quite powerful. I always thought of wackos and extremists when I would get an inkling of this kind of talk in the past, assuming that the speaker or writer was over-indulging or dishonest somehow. It has been enlightening to go through this myself. It has also been a challenge. The resurrection readings have been challenging as I follow my own questions and concerns.

Getting to the Gospels by Steven L. Bridge is very helpful in sorting out the differences in the witnesses to the resurrection:

According to Matthew, Jesus manifests himself twice. He first greets the women as they make their way back from the tomb (Matt 28:8-10), and then he meets with the eleven on a mountain in Galilee (Matt 28:16-20). Luke records three appearances. Jesus approaches two of his followers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32), contacts Peter (Luke 24:34), and then reveals himself to his disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36-49). John describes more appearances by the risen Jesus than any other evangelist. On Sunday, Jesus presents himself first to Mary Magdalene at the tomb (John 20:11-18) and then to the disciples gathered together in a closed room (John 20k:19-23). Eight days later, Jesus returns again to the same house, this time, specifically to Thomas (John 20:26-29). After that, seven of the disciples encounter Jesus while they are out fishing (John 21:1-14).

There are several personal points of interest in the accounts of the risen Jesus appearing that I find very intriguing. First, one of the witnesses of the resurrection was not a disciple, but rather a persecutor of Christians. It was the transformative nature of this experience that Saul of Tarsus converted his beliefs and became the Apostle Paul. He provides a testimonial for the world to the claim of resurrection that is objective.

Second, in the words of Steven L. Bridge, "Having formerly abandoned Jesus, something must have happened to [the disciples] between Gethsemane and Pentecost to cause such a dramatic transformation-- something more compelling than either an empty tomb or a concealed cadaver." I am appreciative of this comment.

Lastly, the first evangelist was a woman. This was a point made to me by the minister at a local church - not my own -- and it made me think. I like very much that the resurrected Jesus appeared first to a woman and instructed her to tell what she had seen. It means to me that Jesus saw the value in the work and words of women. He trusts us to do the right thing for God, unlike some of the messages I internalized growing up about the Old Testament (falsely or not).

These are just the ideas bouncing around in my head this Easter.

For the first time in my entire life, I have not had an Easter dinner to serve or attend on Easter Day. All of our family functions were scheduled for yesterday and Palm Sunday. I usually always serve a brunch. I did have lunch at a restaurant, but returning to an empty house confirmed for my husband and for myself, that despite the extra work, our future Easters will be spent with invited guests in our home!

The Easter Bunny left gifts behind that my daughter has enjoyed all day. In the classic style of my appreciative and good little girl, she loved everything. Her gifts were largely religious in nature for the first time in her five Easters, but it did not waive her excitement or happiness in receiving them. (You never know how kids will respond when they were expecting candy, Barbies and other toys). We were so pleased at the detail in which she could re-tell the Easter story using the Resurrection Eggs. Her preschool uses them and she has learned it so well that it was surprising. Until not-so-long-ago, I did not possess the detail that she has at her age. (This is a double-edge sword that shows, not only her firm grasp of the Bible recounting of resurrection, but also of my adult ignorance of the details until recently.)

As the day closes, I feel closer to Christ and I have a bit of satisfaction that I have done everything in my power this year to bring my daughter closer to Christ. I have so much more to study and understand, but as goals are being met and knowledge is building, I am both so very pleased and know there is so much more to learn, teach, and understand!

Happy Easter!

Something extra for your glittering eyes:
Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio

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