Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Good Friday Allegorical Meditation

(As a devotional practice lately, I've developed a variation of the monastic practice of sortes biblicae, whereby I open to as random a passage as I can manage, and then attempt to read it allegorically - which is not antithetical to faithfully. Such relies on a strong belief in providence, as well as in the Totus Christus. More on that another time. Below is my meditation for Good Friday.)


Wisdom 7.29-30 - She is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail.

Excels every constellation. No pattern we can witness in nature, no “natural theology,” no admiration of a beautiful sunset, can fully encapsulate or exhaust the depthless beauty of the Creator’s Wisdom. Any time we are tempted to say, “its enough just to skip the Eucharist and go fishing,” it is not so much that we are wrong, as that we partake in an almost-truth. Yet we do not receive its fullness. The transfigured host which we eat is not merely sign, but also reality, a reality-sign, a sacrament, that reveals to us the true nature of all reality, charged as it is with God’s grandeur. Yet without that reference point, we cannot truly know the meaning of finitum capax infiniti. Without it, our ship is lost in dark water.

So strange, that Wisdom should be fully revealed in the moment that recalls and re-presents the sacrifice of the cross. On this Good Friday, the scandalousness of which Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1 should not be taken for granted or lost. Nature’s beauty is revealed as much by her death and resurrection as it is in her splendor. One might say the latter is impossible without the former. And this makes little sense. Annie Dillard laments the sacrifice of a billion aphids for the sake of a tiny remnant and the prolongation of the species. The savage mercy of the natural way of things can hardly be called grand, even if it cannot be called mean. Such is the foolishness that must be endured by we Greeks, the scandal to the Jews.

And so Christ is crucified to make sense of all crucifixions. It is Christ’s death that is more beautiful than the sun, and perhaps this is why, on this Friday, the sun hid her face in shame, and darkness covered the land. But the text also speaks of the darkness as evil - which would make the light not merely created radiance, but the very splendor of God. As Dr. Marcus helped us see, in Mark’s Gospel, the darkness is the triumph of the demons. Or so they think. The tide that has been rising throughout the gospels finally crashes upon the poor, wretched body of Jesus until it is utterly racked upon the jagged rocks of shadow. The beauty of this radiance and the constellations made visible by His Incarnation, by the revelation of the logos in which “all things hold together” (Col.1.17f) fails. That is why we cannot make them the measure of the divine. All created things must die. Even the stars will burn out one day. And then, what of our patterns, paradigms, progress, predictions?

But Wisdom remains, because she created, creates, and can create again. And the new creation bursts forth in the resurrection. The old patterns have burned out; new stars and a new sun has risen, and so, the possibility of a new navigation of reality, a way to see blindly in the midst of the darkness by the light of the Son who dwells in our hearts. Nature groans, but now in anticipation, now it can see its death and its toil and its transience not as meaningless cycle, but as created beauty, as poetic plot, with beginning, middle, end, and new beginning. Now, is the creation transfigured. But such is visible only to those who kneel before the consecrated host, who grasp in faith and in wonder the depth of the love of God for us, for all humanity, for all of creation.

To say that wisdom is more beautiful than the sun is not to denigrate the celestial bodies, nor to trifle with the rocks and trees or to ignore the robin’s eggs, nested or broken open upon the ground. Rather, in the space opened up by the Father’s Wisdom through the mystery of Good Friday, a path is made, a Way, by which we can tread the road to Golgotha, and, on the way, begin to see the true beauty of everything. For we see things as mortal, as on-their-way-to-death. We cease to grasp for eternities of our own invention. We let go of immortality. We become contingent, created, mortal. And in acknowledgement of these limits, we find new space opened up in us to see the Creator’s hand. We do not need or desire for things mortal to be what they are not; instead, we desire for the Creator to be who He is, and thus open up the space for New Creation, and for the Future Resurrection the Spirit makes possible.

This world will die; but in Christ, the new creation, the resurrection, the life eternal, and the voyage of this life, have only just begun. Here the Savior bid us through the poet: "Come my friends, tis not too late to seek a newer world."

Against Wisdom evil does not prevail.

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