Yes, it’s been a bit quiet around here. Some of the things keeping us temporarily away from the blog: a new small person has arrived (congratulations, Haley!); Easter Sunday was welcomed with feasting and friends; I got to attend the Wheaton College theology conference; and the usual rounds of preschool, ballet, tennis lessons, Sunday school preparation, dinner-making, and reading alone and with the kids.
I’ve mentioned before that our church has begun using the Godly Play curriculum for Sunday School, and one of my favorite things is the huge church year “clock” we have hanging on the wall. Each week, the arrow shows us where we are in the circle of the church year. We’ve been talking a lot about why there are so many white squares for Easter. It’s been good for me to remind the children – and myself – that Easter is so special, so mysterious, so central, that it takes seven whole Sundays to experience it. One day of lilies and brass just isn’t enough to really get us into the midst of the Resurrection!
It’s in this spirit that my husband and I have taken up an Easter discipline together this year. Not a fast, exactly, because that implies deprivation. But we’ve decided that during these fifty days, we’ll just engage with Christian art: music, books, and film. On our listening/reading/watching lists? The Jesus Record and Arvo Part; Matt Redman and Bach; a biography of Rich Mullins and Image Journal; Books and Culture and some academic theology; Brideshead Revisited and Cadfael. Feels like a feast to me!
I did have some initial questions about the idea, though. Isn’t this just a slightly more sophisticated version of that youthful evangelical rite of passage, tossing the secular music? And what’s up with taking on a discipline during Easter, anyway? Isn’t that a Lenten practice? Doesn’t the Resurrection empower us to engage the world, knowing that God has died for it and is reconciling it to himself? Why sit around on a Saturday night watching a medieval monk solve mysteries?
(Well, the answer to the last question is obvious. Cadfael is awesome.)
During Holy Week, I read a short book called Life Out of Death, by Hans Urs von Balthasar. I came across this passage:
Jesus has to experience from within every sin and ungodly doing that has estranged mankind without distancing himself from it, so that, as Paul says, he is literally “made sin” for us (2 Cor 5:21)…The living body that achieves this is the world’s supreme work of art and love; in it, the ugliest side of our history, in all its realism, is transformed from within into what is most beautiful: bearing, forgiving and transforming love.
If the Resurrection is true, then what is ugly and horrific may have the seed of beauty within. Death and defeat are the doorways to triumph. There is a power at work in the world that I can’t fathom, working in ways I don’t expect. It’s not enough to confess “on the third day he rose again” with my lips. I need a new imagination if I want to start to see how that confession is true. And so I’m going to spend fifty days immersing my imagination in works that take the resurrection of the Son of God as their aesthetic starting point. Maybe they can help train me to see.