Friday, April 22, 2011

Let Us Not Mock God with Metaphor

One of my favorite Easter reflections is this poetic masterpiece from my favorite contemporary novelist, the late great New Englander John Updike. His "Seven Stanzas At Easter" is wondrous and makes a crucial point, powerfully:
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
The mockery of metaphor will be employed in many "churches" Sunday, many of them in my neck of the woods. True to Updike's first stanza, these churches are all dying ("falling").

My death will not be symbolic. It will be real. Therefore a symbolic resurrection is no hope for me. I look forward to those rekindled amino acids.


Jared said...

Just discovered this two years ago. One of my all-time favorites.

cjbooth85 said...

Wow. I've never seen this before. Thanks for sharing it.

Profound and powerful and true.

kateg said...

thank you.