The below excerpt was originally published March 29, 2020:
“The restaurants are empty, and the school desks sit silent. The coffee shops, church pews, and barber shops are void of conversation. Trips have been cancelled and weddings postponed. Our world is stained with the stench of isolation, fear, anxiety, and restlessness. The quiet is unnerving, and the spring flowers like a contradiction.
“And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense,” wrote the prescient C.S. Lewis, in his book, A Grief Observed. “Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, fidget…up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.”
This empty successiveness, this pure time, continues on; the hands of the clock tick away, mocking us with their continuity, but for what? Our world has stopped but still keeps turning, the weight of this paradox feels crushing. We ask ourselves, “when will this end?” Little do we know the answer is found in the persistence of spring flowers.”
A year ago we were just beginning to wrap our minds around the events that were unfolding. I certainly do not forget the sorrow I felt going into the Easter weekend, with churches closed and a world drenched in dread. How was it possible to celebrate like this?
Reflecting on this time, I recognize the truth of this paradox, the tension of faith that is the already and the not yet.
On this Good Friday, Christians are prompted to remember the crucifixion, and that at the time of Jesus’ death, “there was darkness over the whole land” (Mark 15:33, ESV). The friends of Christ scattered, hidden and afraid. His followers wrestled with the tension of faith, struggling with Jesus’ own words that, “the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise” (Mark 9:31, ESV). It is important here to note that after this promise did not come reassurance, but rather, uncertainty and fear: “they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him” (Mark 9:32, ESV).
It is in the midst of this tension that believers would be blessed to take Christ’s words seriously. As we live in a world that groans (Rom. 8:22), that is covered in darkness (Mark 15:33), our blessed assurance is that Jesus’ proves his promises. Just as Christ promised to rise after three days, he has promised this: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3).
May we learn from the disciples’ mistakes of doubt and instead rest assured that Jesus is good on his word. We ought to acknowledge ourselves, says St. Cyprian, as ones who, “already hope for divine things, so that we may have no trembling at the storms and whirlwinds of the world, and no disturbance.”
Be reminded of the words Paul wrote the Philippians:
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself (Philippians 3:17-21).
I ended this blog a year ago with this quote from St. Cyprian, and I believe it again serves as a beautiful reminder for a Good Friday after a bad year:
“The kingdom of God, beloved brethren, is beginning to be at hand; the reward of life, and the rejoicing of eternal salvation, and the perpetual gladness and possession lately lost of paradise, are now coming, with the passing away of the world; already heavenly things are taking the place of earthly, and great things of small, and eternal things of things that fade away.” (Cyprian, Treatise VII).