300 E. Burlington at C St.
All are welcome
I am going to give an interpretation of Easter and the resurrection that is spiritual rather than literal, Gnostic rather than Orthodox. The literal interpretation of a resurrection of our physical body offers a comforting thought, something to hope for, with Jesus as the care taker of our spiritual destiny. The interpretation of a resurrection of our spiritual body empowers us with a challenging path, a reality we can experience, with Jesus as our brother and Way Shower. The spiritual interpretation calls us to follow Jesus’ example actively in our own spiritual development and daily life.
Easter has ever been a joyous, happy festival of the church. But the happiness of Easter is very different than the happiness of Christmas. The blessings of Christmas are a gift. At Christmas time Christ is the gift we forgot to ask for, born in our hearts as a gentle awareness of the infant God-essence awakening in our soul. In contrast, the blessing of Easter is earned. We are called to participate as responsible agents in our own processes of growth and development.
Our participation begins with hearing a story.
Throughout the Easter season, the weekly scripture readings and sermons present us with the story of Easter as a mystery drama. A mystery drama is not a whodunit, but a powerful mythological presentation of archetypal realities to our inner personality designed to inspire and deeply engage us in spiritual change, transformation and evolution. Christ’s passionate work to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, his unfair condemnation at the hands of Pilate, his fearless death on the cross, and glorious resurrection are a mystery drama, are the story of an initiation, a transformation in our own soul life.
We have come through the purification of the season of Lent, as we examined ourselves with a mind to leaving behind those traits and old habits that slow down our spiritual development. On Palm Sunday we entered Jerusalem in triumph with Jesus as the people proclaimed him their king, learning that the shallow victory of public acclaim and approval are transitory and never a substitute for our spiritual progress. We experienced the betrayal of Judas, and Jesus’ unflinching example of non-violent witness to Truth as he bears the unjust condemnation of those who misunderstand and fear the Light. On Maundy Thursday, at the Last Supper, we received the enduring gift of the Eucharist, which to this day binds and intensifies our connection to Christ in Holy Communion. On Good Friday we stood at the foot of the cross, feeling the emptiness and disappointment of a mission cut short, a movement scattered, and a loving hero cut down by a loveless power structure.
Jesus did not seek the cross, but asked that the cup of suffering be passed from him. He did not glorify suffering; he glorified courage. It has been said, “The cross is never to be sought, but never to be shirked, and always to be understood in the context of God’s love for us”. Many of the challenges and changes that come to us in this life are difficult, even to the point of facing our own physical death. But each challenge can be taken as an opportunity for soul growth, always with the opportunity to leave behind another bit of smallness and become better fit for the dimensions of eternal life. God wants us to grow into “the fullness of the stature of Christ” and attain full citizenship in the heavenly Kingdom while on earth.
Now, on Easter morning, here we stand with Jesus’ followers confronted by the mystery of Eternal Life. Death cannot hold Jesus; he has risen! But what does it mean? In what way is he resurrected? The resumption of physical existence after death might be called resuscitation; resurrection means entry into a totally different kind of existence.
Easter represents a timeless experience of death and resurrection, not the celebration of a merely historical event. Something mysterious and miraculous happened; the disciples and early Gnostic writers experienced something, and yet the actual nature of the outward and historical event is not important to us. There has never been, even in the gospel accounts, any agreement as to exactly what happened. We must approach these themes as interior and mystical events that can have meaning and reality for us today. We must ourselves experience this mystical death and resurrection as an interior and timeless reality.
We do not celebrate the death and miraculous animation of the physical body of one person in history but our own divinisation and resurrection as a reality in this life. Belief in an historical event is not going to change anything in us. The mysteries of Gnosis are not of this world; they are in the world but not of the world. This is nowhere more true than in the mystery of the resurrection.
The women at the tomb and the disciples experienced not a dead Jesus revived, but the living spiritual essence of Jesus. The gospel accounts give ample evidence that the resurrected body was not the same as the physical body. In the Gospel of Philip we read, “The Lord rose from the dead. He became as he used to be, but now his body was perfect. He did indeed possess flesh, but this is true flesh. Our flesh is not true, but we possess only an image of the true.” The canonical gospels indicate that the resurrected Jesus was not recognized as the physical resemblance he bore during his incarnation. In the Gospel of St John Mary Magdalen does not recognize him until he speaks her name. In the Gospel of St Luke the father of James and Jude and another disciple do not recognize Jesus until he breaks bread with them.
We are dealing here with an interior experience of a transcendent reality. The angels say to the women at the tomb, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen, as He said.” The words of the angels suggest that the ongoing existence of Jesus is not in a history that is dead and gone. If we look for the resurrection in an historical event then we are still seeking the living among the dead.
The power of resurrection is nothing other than the “power that maketh all things new” invoked in the final benediction of our Liturgy. This power is Absolute Being, God’s very existence, which creates, nourishes, and sustains us. If we experience spiritual emptiness it is only because we have metabolized the falseness of duality into our natural bodies. The resurrection power that maketh all things new lives in our spiritual bodies, it is our very Self, our inner core of Absolute Being beyond duality. If we nurture that aspect of ourselves, the resurrection power will enliven our natural bodies as well.
We are meant to experience the resurrection of our spiritual body now, during this lifetime. It is not something to be put off until after the death of the physical body. In the Gospel of Phillip, Jesus says: “If you do not receive it while in this place, you will not receive it in the other place”. Eternal life does not begin with our physical death. Eternal life is not some future event. Eternal life means the experience of eternal, Absolute Being together with our waking, dreaming and sleeping. Resurrection means enlightenment, a higher state of consciousness, inner union with God. The experience of resurrection is attained as the lower self gives way to the Higher Self which is now, and always has been, one with the Father.
May the resurection of our Lord Jesus Christ be in us, enlighten us, and bring the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
Fr. Thomas Miller
The path to enlightenment – mystical union with God - is to develop our spiritual life through meditation, worship, prayer, and service to others. Following the example of Jesus, we are to live truthfully and with courage, embracing all that comes to us as an opportunity for spiritual transformation. Have a joyous Easter, and may Almighty God help each one of us to experience our own resurrection.