Pyrrhic Spring

Here’s the Troparion (equivalent to the Collect) of the Day for Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday in the Orthodox Church:

O, Christ, our God, when Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead, before Thy passion, Thou didst confirm the resurrection of the universe. Wherefore, we, the children, carry the banner of triumph and victory, and we cry to Thee.

The phrase that jumped out at me, singing it this morning at the Lazarus Saturday service was, “the resurrection of the universe.”

Spring is a pyrrhic victory, because in a few months the leaves will flutter, the grass will wither, and the snow will flurry amidst the geese and cranes fleeing south yet again, and all we’ll have to show for it is another year of wear and tear. Yes, even the tree beside the house, which will grow a few more inches this year, will one day blow over as a result of the conspiracy of wind and rot.

It’s not only we humans, caught in this deluded grind of death masquerading as life, that cry out for release in the hope of resurrection and life eternal, it is the universe itself that is grinding slowly to a cold and empty halt.

Unless something – or someone – steps in a causes the cosmos to be changed.

In Paul’s words: Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? If the troparion is right, even the universe groans this question.

But today, when Lazarus was called forth from the grave and the Lord Jesus Christ confirmed the resurrection, not only of us, but of the universe, we, as well as the universe itself, can cry out with joy and victory: Hosanna (which means, “save us now!”)

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On Seeing the World and Holiness

Another great insight from Moby Dick (this one from ch. 16, “The Ship”):

Captain Peleg asks Ishmael why he wants to go sailing. Ishmael’s answer is that he wants to see the world. Cap’n Peleg tells him to “take a peep over the weather bow.” What did Ishmael see over the weather bow?

“Not much,” I replied – “nothing but water; considerable horizon though, and there’s a squall coming up, I think.”

“Well, what dost thou think then of seeing the world? Do ye wish to go round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh? Can’t ye see the world where you stand?”

I suppose the same could be said for holiness. During Lent don’t we all want to be holy? But what’s to see in being holy? The mystery – and the glory – of holiness (I suspect anyway) is not in the seeing, but in the doing, not in the end product, but the process. Could it be that holiness is “nothing but water and considerable horizon”? Could it be that the proper goal is not to be holy, but rather to be becoming holy? (If you will excuse a rather odd – and very improper – double verb construction.)

I ought not want to be holy, rather, I ought to desire the the doing, the thinking, and the being (which might ultimately lead to holiness) as things desirable in themselves, not as means to an end.

Or I might be completely off base on this thought. My source is Herman Melville, after all (who definitely ought not be confused with St Herman of Alaska!).

Obedience

I’m reading Moby Dick right now. Herman Melville is not the place I would normally go to receive spiritual advice, but the following, from ch. 9, “The Sermon,” is pretty good:

And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists.