Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter VIII

It was something of a disorienting experience to walk over to the cemetery for the Sunrise Service this morning.

Although I love to take my walks there, I don't usually give that much thought to its primary purpose. My adult kids are grossed out -- "Mom, there are gravestones all over the place and underneath them, there are bodies! How can you walk there?"

"The worms go in, the worms go out..." I sing back as they roll their eyes.

Seriously, the place is an arboretum as well as a cemetery and, with the number of locally famous people buried there, it's a historical site as well. And, since I have been living here for more than 20 years now, it's also the final resting place for an increasing number of people whom I knew. But I don't focus much on that latter aspect and, when I do, I am well aware that what lies underneath me are the remains of bodies. Bodies of people who are not coming back here.

So yes, it was disorienting, after all these months spent so intensely with the human Christ via the Spiritual Exercises, to walk into the cemetery and see it in a new way, to see it as if it were that cemetery outside Jerusalem so long ago, a cemetery in which someone did actually come back here. I had never really grasped before how completely unexpected the appearance of Christ must have been to those who saw him that morning. I'm sure I don't grasp that yet.

(Think about it. Think about the most recent death of someone close to you. In no way, shape, or form do you expect to see that person sitting on his or her gravestone if you go to visit it.)

And so then, Christ? Someone not quite so human anymore? Have I entered a different realm at this point in the Exercises? Or was I always there and just not too clear on that point?

I'm a bit flummoxed. I'm sorry I got so far behind on my retreat by getting sick and missing most of the month of March. Although I'm on my own schedule, not trying to keep in step with a group, I wish I had gotten through more and reached Holy Week in the Exercises at the same time that we reached it in real life. Maybe I would have been better prepared for this morning. But, maybe not. Maybe it's not something you're ever prepared for.


Kathryn said...

Cemetaries like the one you walk in are beautiful and fascinating. I spent a fair amount of time as a child traipsing through cemetaries while my mother researched family geneaology. There is one close to where I live and close to the University of Rochester where I went to school. Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and many other local notables are buried there. The beauty and solitude made it a fabulous place to walk, study, and play -- yes, there is a huge field where we played frisbee.

When I was young, I went to many funerals for great-aunts and great-uncles who were close to 100 and still living on their farms when they died. We regularly visited the grave of my grandmother who died before I was one year old. I'm not bothered or disturbed by cemetaries -- that said, I cannot begin to fully grasp what happened Easter Sunday morning. I suppose that is where faith enters.

LightYears2Venus said...

Somewhere, recently, I read a piece (a blog? your blog even? I can't remember!) imagining what it was like for Jesus himself to come to consciousness that he was in the tomb and had risen from death. As I recall, the writer imagined him seeing interior being illuminated with divine light, and then, as awareness dawned, Jesus beginning to move in dance.