Saturday, September 2, 2017
HOUSTON AND THE EASTER MYSTERY
It seems to me that Texans like to cultivate the notion that every-thing in Texas is bigger than anywhere else. (Think Texas toast). Well, during the past week Hurricane Harvey has enhanced their bragging rights in a tragic way.
The past few days I’ve been writing the introduction to a manuscript (which I hope some publisher will decide is a book) about the Easter Season, centering on the “paschal mystery” -- the belief that Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection are inseparable from one another, and that our own sufferings and deaths are also parts of the much larger story of redemption, resurrection and, finally, everlasting life. Thus our suffering and pain have an eternal significance right now.
WHAT THIS ALL ABOUT, ANYWAY?
In the expression “paschal mystery,” the word “mystery” does not imply that the event is completely unintelligible, but rather that it is so immense that our human minds will never fully understand it, and therefore we must be content with fleeting insights into its meaning for our lives today, and occasional glimpses of the glory that awaits us in the future in heaven. So, the paschal mystery gives us the background into which, by faith, we can try to fit our suffering, pain, and even death.
But, as I was praying the psalms of Vigils this morning, I kept thinking of my friend Jennifer, a school teacher in Houston, and the suffering that she and her neighbors are experiencing right now. “Overwhelming” doesn’t seem to quite describe what the sorrow and shock must be like in the face of the devastation of the hurricane. This Texas-size tragedy seems too big to glibly fit into the story of the paschal; mystery -- that works for minor setbacks and tragedies, but what does one do with the overwhelming horror of four feet of rainfall in the space of a few days?
The thought made me look hard at the Introduction I’ve been writing, and reminded me that the mystery can sometimes be so awesome that we don’t even get any hints or glimpses of meaning. That’s when we just hang on and pray for God’s help without any visible signs that God is anywhere around.
I’ve been praying for Jennifer, who, in my mind, stands for all the people afflicted by the storm, that she and they my not lose hope, but may hold on until the water recedes, and the work of rebuilding begins. Maybe then they can get a couple of fleeting insights of how this tragedy can, from God’s point of view, be part of a story that is ultimately about beauty, joy, and everlasting life.