July 29, 2014

“A Hope for Some Glory Other than a Crown of Thorns”

entombme

The Entombment of Christ, Badalocchio

As part of my studies, I am trying to wrap my mind around Alan E. Lewis’s fine book, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday. You will be hearing much more about this book in days to come as we move through the Lenten season and Holy Week. For today, I will share with you one of its luminous passages. The late author penned passages that cry out for contemplation. This is rich food indeed. One reviewer said, “A stunning volume… Few works of contemporary theology so wonderfully combine great learning, stylistic eloquence, and moving depth of insight,” and I concur.

Here is one such passage: for your meditation and our discussion today.

between-cross-and-resurrection-a-theology-of-holy-saturday…The only way to defeat the power of sin, without denying its reality or reducing its hostility, is to go beyond it, surpassing its mighty negativity with yet more abundant creativity, its deadliness with overflowing life, its emptiness with presence and with filling.

This is surely the core of faith’s good news, but also its great difficulty. The protest of unbelief is that the world is godless and unjust, a place of lovelessness, iniquity, and pain. Faith, by contrast, hears and speaks a word of promise — that nothing, however evil, can separate us from God’s love, so that the world’s sure destiny is peace and joy. Yet that confidence itself contains the temptation so to proclaim the world’s salvation as to take no longer seriously its distancing from God through suffering, sin, and death. There is a “faith” which has forgotten what it is to doubt; a way of hearing which no longer listens to the silence; a certainty that God is close which dares not look into eyes still haunted by divine remoteness; a hope for some glory other than a crown of thorns.

Such supposed but cowardly and inauthentic faith and hope has failed to wrestle with the conundrum of the grave, evading the possibility that God is God among the suffering and dying, and that the King who rules the world is only a wounded lamb that has been slain….

 

Comments

  1. Bit of a typo – cover says an Alan Lewis wrote the book, not Alan Jacobs. Plus, referring to Alan Jacobs as “late” can shock those who know the name…

  2. Holy Saturday is the day of dormancy, of unknowing. Learning to live in this state is a gift. It teaches you many things, mainly that God’s greatest creativity can develop through this time. It’s naturally contemplative & silent. Very counter-cultural these days. One must descend to the depths to reach or appreciate the highest heights.

    • Thank you for the encouragement. I feel like I am currently living in a state of unknowing myself. Looks like I need to go contemplate, be silent, and learn.

  3. Given the opportunity to spend time with Jesus, I think most of my questions would have to do with just what actually occurred from the moment of his last exhalation of the physical body until the moment when that physical body was no longer bound in the tomb. There are faint hints in our scriptures, perhaps intentionally faint. I don’t think that good answers are obtainable thru an intellectual approach. If I were to investigate whatever tradition exists, my sense would be to start in the Eastern wing of the church. I imagine almost no one reciting a creed in church has any real idea of what it means to say that Jesus descended into hell. If anything, our warped and incomplete ideas of the afterlife would close the door to understanding.

    Does this book investigate what revelation has been given over the years? Does it explore the “harrowing of hell”? Does it illuminate exactly how the world, and perhaps the cosmos, was fundamentally different after that weekend? Or is it more of an inspirational and devotional read as the excerpt would suggest?

  4. Richard Hershberger says:

    “Yet that confidence itself contains the temptation so to proclaim the world’s salvation as to take no longer seriously its distancing from God through suffering, sin, and death. There is a “faith” which has forgotten what it is to doubt; a way of hearing which no longer listens to the silence; a certainty that God is close which dares not look into eyes still haunted by divine remoteness; a hope for some glory other than a crown of thorns.”

    Am I correct in taking this as the complement to Bonhoeffer’s “cheap grace”?

  5. My own understanding is that all theology, even a theology of Holy Saturday, has to refer to the Resurrection, because as Christians we live in the light of the Resurrection. I’m not talking about a theology of glory, because Jesus Christ retains the wounds of his Passion in his glorified and resurrected body. But it is exactly the resurrected, ascended and glorified Lord, still possessing the marks of his Passion, who is able to meet me, and the world, in doubt, silence and, most importantly, guilt. It’s the resurrected Christ who meets us as we lag in the trough of Holy Saturday, and it’s really only the resurrected Christ who can be among the wounded and dying. If he had not transcended his Passion, then he would have been entirely swallowed up in it, and never available to anyone again; but he vanquished death, and so is able to make himself entirely present among the afflicted and powerless and doubting and beaten. And he is present as the One who brings forgiving love.

  6. CM – I’m really looking forward to you peeling back the layers of this topic. Going to Amazon, I note with some embarassment the following claim by the book:

    ‘The first comprehensive theology of Holy Saturday ever written, Between Cross and Resurrection shows that at the center of the biblical story and the church’s creed lies a three-day narrative . . .”

    Wow! Quite over the top! This groundbreaking “first” will be news to Augustine, Aquinas, von Balthasar, along with millions of other believers through the centuries. For the curious, plug in Holy Saturday on your favorite search engine and you’ll be rewarded with an extensive selection of links.

    The Triduum has rich history for Catholic believers. As one, the “silence” of Holy Saturday is a blessed part of the most wonderful period of the Church year.

    Tom