I’ve heard it said before that all of life can be understood as BIRTH, DEATH, & RESURRECTION, for these are the three pillars of the spiritual life. In this season of Lent, I think they form a helpful frame in which to reflect and prepare. This is the third of three letters that focus on one pillar at a time as we now find ourselves in Holy Week.
Birth. Death. Resurrection. Each holds significant weight and space in our souls. But resurrection is the most difficult to grasp. It’s never easy to comprehend what we cannot see. I’ve seen the birth of children. I’ve experienced the death of loved ones. But I can only hope for resurrection. My eyes have never seen the dead come to life.
Our faith hinges on a hope that Jesus’ words will come true:
“Behold, I am making all things new.” Rev 21:5
And until we behold firsthand, we trust. We trust that resurrection makes sense of the dissonance of birth and death; some coherence of the wonder and the tragedy.
Theologians, philosophers, and mystics are fascinated by “the law of three,” a metaphysical fixation on the infinite power of three things over two. The law tells us that a third can give meaning and purpose to the previous two.
- German philosophers offered thesis, antithesis, and synthesis; a clarion call to think deeply and critically.
- Father Richard Rohr gives us order, disorder, and reorder; a framework for how we mature in our faith.
- The triune God gives us perichoresis; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the divine dance.
The law of three frees us from the tyranny of dualism and polarization. It calls us to deeper work, moving through the primacy of birth and the ‘finality’ of death to a different plane. But it’s not easy. Birth can captivate, but is fleeting. Death can depress us, hoodwinking us into accepting the lie that things have come to their natural end. As Thomas Merton reminds us:
The risen life is not easy; it is also a dying life. The presence of the Resurrection in our lives means the presence of the Cross, for we do not rise with Christ unless we also first die with him. It is by the cross that we enter the dynamism of creative transformation, the dynamism of resurrection and renewal, the dynamism of love.– Thomas Merton (He is Risen)
Resurrection gives meaning and purpose to birth and death. It is the ultimate synthesis, the ultimate reordering.
So while we cannot see it, we can hope for it. We can hope for creative transformation. We can hope for the dynamism of renewal and love.
How? I don’t have a formula for you, but rather a wise hunch. The farmer-poet Wendell Berry ends his manifesto on agriculture, of all things, with two words: practice resurrection.
Practice resurrection. It’s his final hope on the plight of agriculture. It’s our only hope for the plight of anything, really.
Practice creative transformation.
Practice the dynamism of renewal.
Practice the dynamism of love.
What does it look like? I think when we orient our lives in the smallest and most mundane ways around transformation, renewal, and love, we practice resurrection. When we see the tough things through to the other side, when we bring love to unlovely places, when we refuse to settle for the simplistic on the quick and easy side of the complex, we practice resurrection.
When we seek to live our lives as though we truly are beholding Jesus making all things new, we’re practicing resurrection.
Q: How can you practice resurrection this week?