Sunday, March 27, 2016

Like A Rolling Stone Meditation / When There Is No Resurrection, We Are Allowed To Mourn And To Discover That Love Is Stronger Than Death

When I woke up this morning at 5 o'clock, my first thought was of Mary Magdalene and her grief.  Something moved me to read the four very different second-hand versions of her experience on the third day after Jesus died (Mark 16:1-11, Luke 24:1-11, Matthew 28:1-10, John 20:1-8), which left me wondering what Mary Magdalene would have written about her experience on the third day after Jesus died.  

I remembered that Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn."

Below is a photo of an ancient rolling stone in Israel:

Then I found this, from which I copied and pasted the following:

When Jewish people heard that someone they loved had died, they tore the front part of their inner clothing. The tear was several inches long,  a symbol of grief: it represented the tearing pain in their hearts.

It was the women’s task to prepare a dead body for burial. The body was washed, and hair and nails were cut. Then it was gently wiped with a mixture of spices and wrapped in linen strips of various sizes and widths. While this was happening, prayers from the Scriptures were chanted.

The body was wrapped in a shroud, but was otherwise uncovered.

Tombs were visited and watched for three days by family members and friends. On the third day after death, the body was examined. This was to make sure that the person was really dead, for accidental burial of someone still alive could happen. 

At this stage the body would be treated by the women of the family with oils and perfumes. The women's visits to the tombs of Jesus and Lazarus are connected with this ritual.

Painting, 'The Dead Christ', by Andrea Mantegna
'The Dead Christ', by Andrea Mantegna

After visiting the tomb on the third day by which time it had decomposed. The bones were then collected and stored in an ossuary, a ‘bone box’, with the large bones at the bottom and the smaller bones and skull placed on top.

Some years ago in the fall, after visiting the grave of the man I loved for so many years, the man who had died the previous spring on Passover, I visited a beautiful Catholic monastery that is located on a mountain hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur.  I was exploring the possibility of joining the Catholic Church because it was the church of Cesar Chavez, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Bruce Springsteen, and St. Francis, among others, and of several dear friends of mine, all of whom had found what they were looking for when they made the Catholic Church their home.  The stumbling block for me was that I didn't believe in the resurrection.  I believed that people I respected and trusted believed, but that was as far as I could go.  

That fall day in Big Sur, there was a retreat taking place at the monastery and a kindly monk in his 50s or 60s was speaking to the group in the church when I entered it.  No one seemed to mind my presence or question it.  I sat down and listened. After the monk finished speaking, as people were milling around, I formulated the question that I wanted to ask of him.  

My question was, "Is it possible to be a Christian without believing in the resurrection?"  

As I recall, his face became very stern.  As I recall, he said, "There is no Christianity without the resurrection." That was that.  That was the end of the conversation.  I appreciated his honesty and saw a door closing for me.  Just now, reading about Warren Zevon's experience and his questions for a Catholic priest, I see another door opening.  Maybe it was the one Warren Zevon was knocking on and that Bob Dylan sang about knocking on, the door we can't see with our eyes:

"And there's no exit in any direction / 'Cept the one you can't see with your eyes"
(Bob Dylan, lyrics from "Series of Dreams")

Who knows?  I sure don't.  

And I have nothing but love and respect for those who do believe in the resurrection.  May we all live in peace, no matter what we believe or don't believe on Easter Day 2016.

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