January 27th, 2009

Let us walk through the door.

Make no mistake: if He rose at all 
it was as His body; 
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules 
reknit, the amino acids rekindle, 
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers, 
each soft Spring recurrent; 
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled 
eyes of the eleven apostles; 
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes, 
the same valved heart 
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then 
regathered out of enduring Might 
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor, 
analogy, sidestepping transcendence; 
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the 
faded credulity of earlier ages: 
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache, 
not a stone in a story, 
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow 
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us 
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb, 
make it a real angel, 
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, 
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen 
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous, 
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty, 
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are 
embarrassed by the miracle, 
and crushed by remonstrance.

John Updike, “Seven Stanzas at Easter”. Updike died today. Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. He was a Harvard undergraduate attending Clifton Lutheran Church in Marblehead, MA when he wrote the poem. In 2001, his pastor, Norman Kretzmann, remembered that Updike was one of 96 adults who submitted an entry in the parish’s Arts Festival in 1960. “Seven Stanzas” was awarded $100 for “Best of Show.” Father Kretzmann kept the typed copy of the poem, and this memory: Updike gave the $100 prize back to the church.

The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the “happy ending.” The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed.
— J. R. R. Tolkien