Paschal Mystery, Episode One
It’s taken me awhile to type this particular blog. I made my notes for it in my journal December 7th and it’s been a block to me. Haven’t felt like I could post anything else until I get this one out. To me, this one is important and filled with applicable truth. A message that I’ve wanted to get JUST RIGHT (that’s why I made notes), and that is probably why it has taken so long to get it out.
Sometimes I do that. In my desire to get things perfect (or as close to perfect as I am capable of), I procrastinate. I rationalize and put things off. My wife would deny emphatically that I am a perfectionist, but for me this is how my perfectionism is shown, avoidance.
Here I go. Putting away and attempts at perfection. This is a blog after all. So, the notes I made are away (I did read them though) and I’m just going to type this out “stream of consciousness” style.
It’s called The Paschal Mystery. (The mathematician in me wants to type and pronounce Pascale.) Outlined by the early Christian mystics as they identified this clear pattern of life. Paschal means passing, from one state to another, specifically from death to new life. Jesus taught about the Paschal Mystery when he told his followers that unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it will remain a single seed. But if it dies, it will produce many seeds. Growth and reproduction are outlined in this principle.
Then Jesus did something amazing, he lived the Paschal Mystery. He died on Good Friday, was raised to new life on Easter Sunday, ascended to heaven and then released a new spirit on Pentecost. That is the Paschal Mystery. And it is repeated over and over throughout life. True life comes only through journeys of death and new life, when we do not grasp onto the old and allow the new to bless us.
Depending on who you read regarding this mystery, it can be summarized in many different ways. But I favor Ron Rolheiser’s progression described in the book The Holy Longing.
death –> grief –> resurrection (new life) –> release (old life) –> spirit of new life
Christ died. Step one. The grain of wheat falling to the ground. The salvation of his disciples, and our own, would be impossible without this death. Because the hopes of the disciples were in the old life, their worldly expectations of the Messiah, they grieved. When Jesus died, so did their hope – or so they thought.
For me, the most profound step is what happens after the new life forms. When something in our life dies, whether it is a life, phase of life, hope or dream, a new life takes it place. Often whether we like it our not. This presents us with a choice. The same choice faced by the disciples when Christ was resurrected.
Do we cling to the old? That is not the Paschal Mystery. But it is common. Change cannot happen when we grasp for the old, cling to it and won’t let it go. That was Mary Magdalene’s first reaction, to hold onto the risen body of Christ, holding onto what she knew. She wanted resuscitation. Jesus asked her to let go; He wasn’t constrained by the old, something new was going to happen; this was resurrection.
The second choice is to release the old life. Release it so that it can ascend, because it is only by letting it go can we receive the blessing. It wasn’t until Jesus ascended that the counselor could be sent. It was better for his disciples that he depart from them.
This choice is easy to type in paragraph form, but sometimes amazingly difficult to execute in everyday life. Releasing doesn’t mean forgetting. Then none of us could release our loved ones when they die. Part of releasing is not giving the old control. Not making ‘the way things were’ an idol. It is so difficult, it is the step that hangs all of us up at some point, if not the majority of the time.
Yet, good grieving consists in not just letting the old, good grieving allows us to let the old bless us. Jesus ascended and sent the spirit of the new life to his disciples. By letting go of the old, their old expectations of Christ, their old hopes for themselves in the coming kingdom, they were able to live out of the Spirit of the new life.
Life is full of hurts, losses, unfairness, disappointments, shattered dreams, and unreached potential. All these things (and more) deserve grief. But, unless I mourn them properly, they will never be able to bless me. Until I release my fantasies of what could or should have been, I will be doomed to live in bitterness and resentment.
That requires trust. Trust that there is a God who loves me. Trust that He is working all things for the good of those who love Him, of which I am one. I must trust that nothing is wasted in God’s economy and I have a choice that will either lead to bitterness or blessing.
There it is. The Paschal Mystery presented imperfectly. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to comment so I can clarify. What I want is for us to all be able to speak the same language spiritually.
Ignorance is not bliss. Now that I’ve identified this process, this mystery, I have been able to also see clearly the things I’ve been hanging onto. One you know you are hanging on, it is much easier to release what is dead and unhealthy in life. Helping to free me of bitterness, and continue to journey toward strength with joy.