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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Vigil Mass and Happy Earth Day

Well, I wasn't planning on writing on this topic. I've already written about Easter, but the Easter Vigil mass this year moved me. And the topic of the homily was directly related to this blog, so I decided to post an extra entry.

Let me set the stage. It was a typical busy Holy Saturday, full of grocery shopping, Easter Egg dying, taxiing kids, defending Peter Jackson's
choices in The Hobbit movies on the phone to one of my husband's friends, and food preparation. Pre-holiday preparation always pushes me beyond my busy-ness comfort zone.

When we got to the mass, me already yawning, the fire in the foyer and the candle lighting, the chanting and the invocations, all made me feel like I had stepped back in time hundreds of years. This delicious feeling touched my irrational-mythic mind deeply.

Then after several readings from the old testament of pre-figurations of Christ and my normal personal effortless flow, sometimes flood,  of ideas from the mass for my current Work-In-Progress story, the homily started.

Let me preface this with the fact that I'm pretty sure my priest doesn't even know I write, let alone have a blog or read it. And considering that I am currently writing a series on Mythological Humanoids and have shared my beliefs along side other's current and ancient beliefs, I felt like he was talking right to me. [Have you ever gotten that feeling? It's a little disconcerting, but funny.]

The homily was on the difference between the resurrection of Christ and other stories of dying and rising gods – Egypt's Horus and Greece's Dionysus - right up my alley. The priest spoke about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, two of my favorite authors, both being firm believers in Christianity and steeped in and writing about mythology as professors and fantasy writers. The priest had my undivided attention then, even though my nine year old was getting antsy beside me and checking my watch every five minutes to see exactly how long an Easter Vigil mass was – one hour and forty-five minutes was discussed on the way home - and how much longer he would have to sit still with the incense smell making him want to cough.

The priest's point was that Christ's Resurrection was not meant to be mythology. While the Horus and Dionysus stories were explanations of the rhythms of nature - the ebb and flow of the Nile River, and the planting and harvesting of grapes and the making and consuming of wine, respectively - events crucial to the people that created these stories. The creators of these stories, and I'm sure the subsequent refiners of these stories, were purposely making myths. They were using symbolic language to explain and celebrate their lives.

The story of the Resurrection of Christ, on the other hand, was told and written as fact, not an irrational symbolic myth, but a rational sharing of eye witness accounts firmly grounded in history. Christ's Resurrection, the priest explained, was a historical event.

I will be chewing on this idea for a long time. As I write this though, I can hear my husband's atheist voice (as of nine years ago when he definitively turned away from his Biblical Studies degree and seminary) in my head saying, “But the interpretation of the event was the mythological part.” In my head I argue, "I'm not so sure it's that simple. Mythology and symbolism are complicated beasts. Where does fact end and poetry begin? How much overlap is there between the two? The answers to these questions changes for different parts of the Bible." [Yes, I do regularly argue with myself. Doesn't everybody?]

As I chew on how much overlap there is between history and symbolism in the Resurrection story, I realize this homily is an answer to prayer and imagine I hear the footsteps of God behind me, tapping me on the shoulder and pointing the way. It thrills me to feel the overlap between myth and reality come so close. To put it another way, I love when my rational mind and my irrational mind are on the same page working as a unit.

I'm not sure how much history is portrayed in the biblical stories about Jesus's Resurrection. I know I want to believe it is all history, because that is the easiest and simplest route, but things are never simple and struggling through the challenge of belief is part of the journey to faith.

What do you think about the historicity and the symbolism in Jesus's Resurrection story? [Now I'm off to go stuff Easter eggs, make up baskets and hide things. Happy Easter everyone!]
 [Obviously this was written several days ago. I'm just getting to post it. The pictures are from last Wednesday's trip to the park, I hope you enjoy them.] Happy Earth Day!

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