The Paschal Mystery: Dying as the Way to the Fullness of Life

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Part of "The Paschal Mystery: Dying as a Way to the Fullness of Life"

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good morning and i'd like to welcome you to this retreat and title the pascoe mystery dying into the fullness lie
and i'd like to begin with prayer
spirit of other than god
we pray for your enlightenment
we pray for your wisdom
we prayed for your
strength and courage and fortitude
we pray that we might know how to die and life an album truly come alive in death
we pray to know this mystery the mystery of birth and death
on earth
and our life
beyond physical death
our eternal life with you the father the son and the holy spirit
amen

by way of introduction
ah one could ask the question why this topic and i suppose i was asking it up myself
why this topic on death
and i have a number of
reasons that came to me the first
is a very personal reason the increasing importance of clarifying in my life the basic issue of birth and death
or another way of saying that is why do all things come to be and then ceased to be
this became particularly acute for me when i started going through mid midlife and my late thirties and into my early forties
and this was precipitated by a number of events there was my own aging process and changes physiological changes which were signals are reminders to me that i was pass my youthful vigor and entering another
stage of life
but also
other events like the death of my grandparents all took place for the most part in my late thirties early forties
and they had always been very close and involved with our family living nearby
so it was certainly an event that signaled the torch had been passed from them as the seniors in the family to my parents but then around the same time my own dad's health became increasingly fragile and his own strength as he entered it
to retirement and a became more and more inflicted by his his various elements
that the the torch or the flame of of life or seniority was then being passed on to his children and eventually his own death
another event that was an important signal for all of this this theme of birth and was my own decision to leave my religious community to twenty one years and to make a radical move to
new and monastic community namely here at the hermitage that was an experience of death after twenty one years to to leave that community and of course coming here was an experience of new birth new life
so all of those events
certainly kept bringing to in an intense way to to my consciousness this theme of beginning and end birth and death as an endless seemingly endless cycle and as having some kind of intimate connection or relationship to one another
a second reason for this topic is the increasing realization of attention
that's created between these seemingly opposite poles and that are fundamental polarities that are working in life on life and width life around me as well as in and honored with my own life and particular
and feeling this tension and noticing the at least some level of my personality trying to resolve the tension one way or another and then realizing the wisdom lay and staying right in the middle of the to
a third reason for this topic
that became apparent for me was the importance of facing death for greater liberation greater freedom in my life to simply be to simply live life
i remember reading that merton towards the latter part of his life someone asked him what he wore and how he prayed and etc and he kind of had reduced at all to
how he prayed was breathe and but he wore wear pants
i think as we grow older and especially after we pass through a midlife as merton had done in in this instance of that comment and faced his own death or the reality of death perhaps more acutely in his life discovered a liberation of freedom
i'm to just be and do not be too attached to rose and structures and the externals
so this was becoming important for me a fourth reason for this topic is by virtue of the the religion that i belong to and that we belong to the and central to the christian religion as the pascoe mystery
central to christian life it is somehow at the heart of daily life and so much so that we celebrated
at least weekly and for some people daily in the liturgy of the eucharist
and at that would coincide with the season this being just shortly after easter so we're in the easter season that also seemed appropriate for this topic
i'm a fifth influence or reason for this topic is the influence of other religious traditions
and their emphasis on facing the they their own wisdom has come to the conclusion that to grow in life one must face the reality and the mystery of death and this is true in native american culture and
perhaps some ways more or less for different ways in the various native american tribes and my own experience in mexico with the navajo tribe and the zuni pueblo drive and some of the tribes and where i started doing more extensive reading in native american spirituality
the
that also was an influence my readings and exposure to hinduism
the story and rather captivating story of this young man who suddenly got this into his head that he was going to die and this reality
he was in his teens was so overpowering that he couldn't escape it and it was completely engaging and he finally just one lay down and completely faced his own death and actually felt something like a death experience take place in him and
once were complete change and became a yogi a great teacher who
later very much influence honey lu so
who as you may know was the frenchman addicted who was the second to go to southern india to try to
enter into a dialogue between christian benedictine monasticism and hinduism particularly the monastic strain of hinduism followed upon by her own father father bede griffiths so that was an influence as well as buddhism my
readings in zen and exposure to than teaching and particularly dough dogen i think is the way it's pronounced a great zen teacher
some would describe as the founder of soto's them and his own stress on the importance of resolving or or solving the mystery or the question of
birth and death
and then last year i read the in tibetan buddhism i had read the book of the dead and again was
challenged by it to look more closely at the phenomenon of death and it's meaning in christianity it's meaning for life and again not only physical death but
other experiences that we call it down and finally some of my readings in and and islam particularly the sufi mystics and most especially roomy and some of his poetry so loose that these have all been in influence and finally the last reason i would give what
be the culture i live in
i happen to live in american culture north american culture and it's a culture that
have called a death denying culture at may be a culture that where there's a lot of death or his death by violence by crime or death by the wars that we've been involved with as a country and death in our movies on the screen but in terms of as a personal process
that we are involved with
we are a death the nine culture i think ernest becker in his bestselling book go the denial of death is a classic now and and makes that point so all of these are reasons i think for us to look more closely at what is the meaning of death and per
particularly what light does jesus christ shed on this mystery for us
so let us dig right in i'd like to read a quote
from paul's letter to the philippians chapter three vs tend to eleven
i wish to know christ and the power of his resurrection
and the sharing of his sufferings
by becoming like him in his death if somehow i may attain to the resurrection from the dead
probably most of our strongest memories and most positive feelings
as christians revolve around the celebration of christmas
the bright lights
the decorations the festive colors
the gift giving the good cheer
the wonderful aromas of food favorite food
the family celebrations
the cultural all the cultural hoopla all of this makes christmas i think a magical time certainly for children and generally speaking a happy time for adults
yet the triduum what we call the triduum the passover a billboard the puskar of jesus christ according to christian teaching remains the center of christian faith
why isn't it as popular as christmas
even liturgically there are far more people will attend the christmas liturgy and the christmas midnight mass and vigil then you'll see at the easter vigil and services
perhaps easter is not as popular as christmas because it's about suffering and death
and that is not popular with us
also maybe part of the reason is
for most of us the vast majority we have been baptized as infants as children and very few of us have been baptized as adults
and so baptism
for as is associated with an infant with birth with nativity with the joy of new life which again is associated with christmas time
not with easter not with suffering and death of an adult
and even that season that surrounds easter lent traditionally involves cynicism sacrifice a certain amount of self denial self examination
conversion and contrition or emphasized and even the colors are more somber
these are not appealing things for us
we would rather focus on christmas birth christmas joy
oddly enough the rule of st benedict asserts that our entire life should be one endless lamp looking toward easter
it also admonishes us to keep death before us daily
what does benedict know that we don't know
what is his wisdom for us in this regard
is he just being gruesome
we have just celebrated easter and are now in a full swing of the easter season and this time is called by the church that mr guo jia which is meant to be a deepening of our understanding of the pascoe mystery of the passion death and resurrection of geez
this
therefore it isn't good for us to look into benedict's wisdom now which is really none other than the wisdom of the new testament
i think what we will discover as that easter is just as much about birth as christmases
in fact even more so
what is from that birth that all other births are born and have their meaning
the word easter comes from the old pagan term for a the spring festival
for as easter is the liturgical celebration and enactment of the pascoe of jesus christ is passover who's suffering and death and from earthly existence into another existence
called resurrection life
christianity claims this event and mystery to be the central event not only of jesus's life
but we can even say of history touching everything and everyone
in fact that every eucharist we celebrated we participate and we proclaim that saying christ has died christ is risen christ will come again
we must realize that for the disciples the first disciples gathered around jesus though they spent some three years associated closely with him and living with him sharing meals and lodging with him traveling with
im listening to him and watching him closely
though they had the privilege of such intimate and prolonged contact with jesus
prior to his death and resurrection
they failed to truly understand his real significance for their lives
for that of israel and they couldn't even begin to imagine his significance for the whole of humanity and even beyond for the whole creation
up to that point
he had they had come to see him merely as the fulfillment of their common popular messianic hopes as a great prophet and healer and teacher that somehow would rouse the people and eight them and throwing off the yoke of roman domination and ushering in a time
of peace
and glory for israel
the secret of jesus as life it's meaning became apparent to the disciples and even to jesus only through the event of his death and resurrection
and the experience of his spirit with them
that is my strikers is rather odd how can the horrible end of someone's life reveal the meaning of all that has taken place before
def doesn't give life meaning
no we say it robs life of meaning isn't that our experience and islam and and is it not why we fear the most of all
as the service and some thirty nine rights let me know or lower at the end
my end and what is the number of my days that i may learn how frail i am
a short span you have made my days and my life is not before you only a breath is any human existence a phantom only man goes his way like vapor only are his restless pursuits
the heaps up stores and knows not who would use them

we build lives have meaning and depth comes along and seems to take it away
our life carefully put together like a stack of cards
one day is folded his collapsed by death
no i think for us the meaning of life is in the living of it not be ending
baptisms infant baptisms not wakes and funerals and
our cemeteries
when i was young my one set of grandparents were friends with the owners of a local funeral parlor and these people had a summer cottage in one day the summertime came around they had asked my grandparents to to live in their living quarters upstairs and the parlors for the
funeral arrangements were downstairs and so they would do this for the summer and of course when we wanted to see them we would go visit them there and i always found it a rather odd and strange and eerie to go to that place
i wondered why would anyone live
upstairs on top of these parlors were the deceased were laid out and were and above the basement where the bodies were embalmed
i never wanted and i never did ever sleep there with them
this is the strange paradox of christianity isn't it
yeah christianity owes it's very life it's very existence and birth to the death and resurrection of jesus
in john's gospel particularly the scene of the crucified jesus
his side pierce with blood and water flowing out is the birth of the church
is the birth of a new world order
is the beginning of the end of the world
the beginning of the culmination of all history and evolution
for john it is also the moment of jesus's rebirth
his resurrection
the secret of birth and death for everyone and everything is reveal simultaneously at that moment though it will be manifested a few days later and absorbed by the disciples over many days and months and even years
this is why john has mary and the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross at the moment of jesus's death and i have here beside me one rendition of this seen him
an icon rendition and if you look at it closely
mary the womb that bore him
stands beside him and death
the womb that bore him stands beside death the tomb
seemingly at opposite opposite ends of each other the womb and the tomb but john has them places them side by side each looking at the other each before the other
suggesting that birth and death beginning and end
our in some way inseparable
it's john's way of emphasizing that this death scene isn't some mysterious way a birth scene
his death in fact sheds light on mary's womb
on jesus's conception and what i would like to call his first birth
from the womb of mary
his death marks the reason he came into her womb
and from it into the world and human history
does the womb to tomb are inseparable birth lies at the heart of death and death at the heart of birth
and for me this is central to these reflections this weekend
let me repeat that in some mysterious way birth lies at the heart of death and they're at the heart of birth
on the cross jesus prepares for another birth
born in death actually his third birth the second having been his own baptism as he plunges into the waters and emerges
hearing his identity proclaimed this is my beloved son
but even more when he says to her behold your son
he means both himself born in death on the cross and the beloved disciple reborn in that same event
for somehow mysteriously they are now one son in the sun
and he went when he says to the disciple behold your mother he means both mary and himself in death our mother
one giving birth to the flesh by the power of the spirit the other giving birth to the spirit by the power of free dying flesh
remember jesus's words to nicodemus in john's gospel
entering the kingdom requires being born from above
in water and spirit
flash begets flesh and necessary first birth but spirit begets spirit a second birth in there for which the first birth
is a preparation
the text goes on with jesus saying of his second birth quote so much the son of man be lifted up
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life in him and of quote
and so on the same passage rebirth and death are mentioned together
this is why the early fathers of the church looking at jesus's death according to john's gospel
i saw jesus and death as mother
they wrote that like adam who in a deep sleep gave birth to eve jesus the new adam sleeping the sleep of death on the cross gives birth to a new humanity a new world order to the fulfillment of god's plan
from his wounded side the wound of dad
a woman gives birth
thus the scriptures say by his wound we are healed
i find us to be most important for it suggests to us that jesus is death cannot be separated from his first birth nor in second birth
st paul paul claims
even his first birth required a death
a kind of death a death for the word for the logos as paul writes and philippians two
who being in the form of god did not count equality with god something to be grasp at but emptied himself and this is what i'm calling a kind of death but emptied himself taking the form of a slave becoming as human as we are
even the infancy narratives in matthew and luke we see these two kinds of death taking place death stalking him even there in his early life
there's the death that herod seeks the physical death
with leading to the feast of the holy innocence but also there is the death of poverty there in those early scenes nowhere to be born and eventually being born in a stable
his utter poverty having no place of his own is a kind of death a kind of emptying self emptying
this is that the heart of what we call the pascoe mystery
which is central to christian faith and christian daily living
it is the fundamental pattern imprinted upon all of reality upon your life and mine and i think this is why st paul who thought he saw his life and its meaning so clearly in terms of righteousness through perfect obedience of the law to the point
defending it against to be trail of the heretical christians even the to the degree of persecution and execution
yet he has suddenly knocked down to the ground on the way to damascus and shown how blind he is
even though his eyes are opened and he's knocked down and his encounter with the risen crucified one
see after three days reminiscent of jesus's death
and resurrection and eat no food and drink
thus his acceptance of jesus the crucified risen one leads to his baptism and the laying on of hands
and he learns the true meaning of his life and death
thus life has turned completely around he has given a new vision and a new name which is none other than the vision of christ for the world in god as one entire unity
paul experiences a death and rebirth
and this becomes a repeated pattern in his life increasingly so up to his final death his physical death
bassett is this event
pascal event which illuminates the meaning of jesus's entire earthly life
and also marks it everything he ever said or did is illuminated and given it's true and full of meaning
by this event
another way we could say it his entire life is pascoe
it is in the light of this event that the disciples began to see who jesus really is and what his birth life and death and resurrection really mean
and even further they gradually begin to see the universal and cosmic significance of christ in terms of the overall goal of creation
he reveals the absolute meaning of existence the ultimate horizon against which and towards which and within which everything has come to be and is becoming
the gospels were written long after this event when the disciples had sufficient time to absorb it and live with it a while and preach it and witness its effect and building up a church
and also when they had enough time to search the scriptures and began to mature in the spirit of the reservoir
when there had been enough time for the church to grow
being made up of diverse people something entirely beyond the power imagination or originality of the disciples
thus
the dark church and entrance with the pascoe candle at the vigil service of the lord's pask
and the readings beginning with genesis to all of jewish history
what we claim as his death resurrection illuminates all this by illuminating the end goal for which it was all created and each of us carries our own small light lit from christ the paschal candle but we have caught up in this dynamic
he is not just a hero that we admire from afar he is our life our light
our suffering and death our resurrection our future breaking into our lives now bringing about transformation
this is why baptisms are done at this time
if this is who jesus is then i want to be plunged into his life and death
so that i might find the true meaning of my life
baptism is a symbolic experience and a means of
experience in bringing to consciousness what christ has already given
it is my conscious choosing
the death and resurrection of jesus therefore illuminates
his entire life
and for john even his pre existence
and as such illuminates everything everything else going back to the first moment of creation and forward to the end of the world as we know it
so he is therefore the center and this divine pattern that we call the pascoe pattern
imprints his life imprints all of life

i'd like to stop here and
give you some scriptures for further reflection
john's gospel chapter three vs one to sixteen
chapter nineteen vs twenty five to thirty seven
philippians two six to eleven
acts nine
verses one to twenty two
romans seven twenty four and following
philippians three vs ten and eleven
galatians one one two five
galatians two versus nineteen to twenty one
that's a rather powerful excerpt where paul says quote i've been crucified with christ and yet i am a lie yet it is no longer i but christ living in me i am living in faith and faith in the son of god who loved me
me and gave himself for me
so that ends our first talk