It is the first hour of Easter for the prodigal son as the phrase signals a life-changing awakening. But should I heed to the blowing of the horn? Should I relish this offer of narrative relief? There is a goad, rightly so, because even the final morning prayer from the Breviary for this fourth week of Lent carries this gratifying seduction:
“Father of peace, we are joyful in your Word, your Son Jesus Christ, who reconciles us to you. Let us hasten toward Easter with the eagerness of faith and love.”
Christian composer Karl Kolhase penned it playfully this human impulse to expedite things up:
So put an end to all of your questions,
‘Cause there’s hope enough for you
There at the empty tomb.
I’ll race you to the tomb.
We love stories of breakthroughs, don’t we? Hollywood movies thrive on breakthroughs in the way they highlight heroes’ and heroines’ rupture from the debacles set by their nemesis. I do get impatient watching the attenuated anguish of the main actor, wanting to crush the head of the monster within a short showdown of powers. The un-ravelling must be immediate and dramatic. It’s all agog with the return of the hero once subjugated by the forces of darkness. Lost. Defeated. Now standing over dead bodies with his blood-stained sword, howling into the heavens for a mission fulfilled. Alone or with a couple of dirt-faced survivors. And it feels good. Because it feels good.
The same sense of rupture seem to synergize also religious charismatic communities with rapturous testimonials of personal conversions, of being found, of “coming to one’s senses.”
But I have a nuanced curiosity. What exactly happened in-between the phases of lostness and ‘coming to one’s senses’? The question fascinates me not because the younger son does not deserve a bail out from his fiasco. It is for some curiosity that between his routine misery and gut-wrenching pain and the “resurrection of his mind” as he came to his senses must be an unassuming truth that bridges the two. This truth is not simply an instrument of transitions from tragedy to victory. It is there – unassuming as a source of power, often unnoticed because it simply abides with its powerlessness that human beings like myself would rather skip in exchange of the victory of our hero with his blood-stained sword.
Anthropologist Michael Jackson had an illumination at one point when the plane he was riding, minutes before landing, encountered a heavy turbulence. It was a crisis moment he tried to observe as well with passengers moving from hysteria to silent prayers to the clapping of hands when they came out of the danger safe and sound. Such was a confirmation of his studies of a tribe in Sierra Leone during crisis and traumatic moments -that in between the hysteria and the end-of-the-crisis merriment is the shattering of speech.
Shattering of speech. Shattered speech. The broken middle between the younger son’s entanglement in misery and enlightenment. A meeting point between human verbosity and fullness of words human beings are capable of uttering-into-living (typified by Dimas and Estas), but both shattered and silenced with finality. Not in Golgotha but in the graveyard. In the lowest bottom, at the cusp of the belly of the whale where Jonah curled in silence, his mouth shut from being disobediently verbose. In the shattered speech in the graveyard, God became a broken middle, God paradoxically proving to humanity by way of powerlessness that silence is the ground of everything including the conviviality of Easter. Humanity’s shattered speech – it is when human words fail that the Spirit’s work of transfiguring and “resurrecting the mind” takes place: “the Spirit intercedes with sighs (breaths) too deep for words.”
Should Easter be central then in our celebration? You might want to consider this musing from Alan Lewis:
“If confidence in the resurrection tends to modify the deadliness of Calvary, likewise it is only those who have first looked into the mouth of hell and seen the world abandoned to its godless fate who then can truly see the meaning of the Easter Day reversal. For reversal is precisely what the empty tomb announces: the inversion of everything which the death and burying of Christ implied.”
Have a Blessed Holy Week ahead of us…
Alan E. Lewis. Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Michigan, 2001: p.88)