Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dust Into Glory

It is much like any other day, really. Every day of our lives we move toward death, and if we are really honest with ourselves we recognize that our actions fall short of our aspirations. From a certain point of view, we could consider each day a failure. We want happiness, we do things in order to be happy, and yet happiness eludes us. Even when we attain success and satisfaction, we are haunted by the fragility of it. Success leads to further expectations, sensitivity to the perception of others, pressure to succeed again, and an inevitable struggle with critique, the failure to measure up to one's own standard, and disappointment. Satisfaction dissolves into time's inescapable question: "What now?" And over all there is the anxiety that "it won't last...."

We want permanent happiness. But everyone who has ever lived has ended up dead, and so will each one of us. But my heart--that stubborn thing--insists on wanting and seeking permanent happiness. The whole world lures us with the promise of happiness. But it is as if we are trapped and cannot get there. Either our hearts and the whole universe are a lie, or happiness does exist, but we cannot achieve it, we cannot find it. As Kafka said, "the destination exists but there is no road." Is this the dilemma? "Unto dust you shall return"--is this the final word on human existence?

Is it?

No, says the human heart. In the midst of conflicting circumstances and no perceivable hope, the heart still expects happiness. And so we keep on going.

Why?

There is a whispering in the depths of every human heart. Something has happened. No living human being has entirely lost the memory of the echo of that secret: Something has happened. Already the heart is hiddenly drawn forth.

Something has happened. The mystery of grace opens the heart to this hope. And the eyes that look upon reality and history discover the fact that confirms it: A man has risen from the dead. He has himself died and destroyed death for all of us, and in rising has glorified the dust. This fact is called Christianity. It is not Christianity unless it is a fact. A myth about a dying and rising redeemer to comfort our sentiments or symbolize some vague afterlife is not Christianity. Nor is Christianity the story of an ethical teacher who died for his beliefs and left us a lasting inspiration. Christianity is a fact: Happiness became a man. "That-Mystery-For-Which-Our-Hearts-Have-Been-Made" HAS BECOME A MAN. A man who lived and died and rose from the dead; a man who gathered other men around him and began of movement of life in history that continues to this day--an identifiable movement of life that can be seen and heard and touched: the "Church," ekklesia, the "gathering," the community of people who adhere to him through space and time unto this very day. Perhaps someone called to serve this community traced the sign of black ashes on your forehead today.

On this day, we begin a season of memory. We are moving toward death. We are returning to dust. But something has happened to the dust. The dust has been transfigured by Glory. The truth, the reality, the fact about the dust is that it has been changed: even as dust, even as weakness and disappointment, even as frustration, even as death, it has been changed. It has become the road to happiness because Happiness Himself has taken it as His own.

My dust. He has taken my dust as His very own.

And I seek to walk in silence, to focus, to withdraw from distraction, to sacrifice ordinary comforts in order to listen more carefully to that heart where the whispering continues: Something has happened. Something has happened. Something has happened.

1 comment:

Emily said...

What a beautiful reflection on the real meaning of Lent! As always, thank you for that post.