CPR for the Soul (Greg Spearritt)

  (21 May 17)
  by Greg Spearritt

CPR for the Soul

    


Greg Spearritt reflects on Easter.

 

 

 

In religious instruction classes at school (often masquerading in these enlightened times as Religious ’Education’), my six-year-old was told that Jesus "died and came alive again". In truth, the Jesus of much popular belief does often seem resuscitated rather than resurrected. He strolls (hops?) at your side like Harvey the invisible rabbit, a mentor and guide with whom you can have ’a personal relationship’.

I don’t know quite how you convey the idea of resurrection to Year One, but I’d hope there would be at least some emphasis on the effect of the event on Jesus’ followers. Call me an unreconstructed historicist, but I’m with the Jesus Seminar on this one: the whole dying-rising divinity thing puts me right off. It’s the ’church’ (for want of a better term) that was resurrected, in my view.

These days I’m out of the ’Christian Church’ scene. Easter is one the few times I really miss it.

To be precise, I miss the whole Ash Wednesday-to-Holy Week experience. My most intense and meaningful religious experiences have been at this time, associated as much with the dark or ’negative’ aspects as with the joy and exultation of Easter Day. 

The ’ashes to ashes’ bit, for one, never failed to move me. It was one moment of absolute existential honesty, a poignant high point in a morass of questionable and often dreary beliefs, practices and doctrines. I get something of the same feeling - and it’s oddly fulfilling, even fortifying - from reading Camus.

Palm Sunday (with its little bit of theatre) and Maundy Thursday (washing of the feet) were satisfying particularly for the sense of community they engendered. More intensely meaningful, though, were the stripping of the sanctuary, departing in silence, kneeling in the wee hours before a bare cross, and of course the mournful, funereal tone of the Good Friday service.

The final joyful burst of colour and song as we proclaimed ’He is risen!’ was a release, a closure. (These days my rejoinder would be ’We are risen indeed!’, ’we’ meaning the group collectively, the ’community of faith’.)

I found living and internalizing the myth over Holy Week a most effective way of making meaning in what I believe to be an existence which has no meaning in itself. It was a way of acknowledging my mortality and fragility, my capacity for life-destroying thought and action, my connectedness to others and to history, and my aloneness.

What a pity churches are so obsessed with right belief, and with kow-towing to the Almighty. For where else do we have the chance to identify in dramatic, symbolic ways with such a powerful story (one among many powerful stories)? Where else can we experience resurrection - or even get seriously resuscitated? Is Lord of the Rings at the cinema as close as we can get? God help us!

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