Monday, March 24, 2008


At the heart of the Easter Gospel are a variety of New Testament texts which speak vividly but unevenly, and often to our eyes and ears confusingly, of the experiences of the Risen Christ which became a core part of the experience, message and life of the earliest Christian communities - and have resonated down the ages in narrative, liturgy, word, song, formulation, prayer and performance. They have obviously been subject to endless scholarship, dissection, analysis, reconstruction, and speculation concerning the intertwining of history and myth. But they keep bounding back to provoke and interrogate our affirmations and uncertainties. In the media this week, two renditions stand out, one on the radio and the other in print.

BBC Radio 4 presented Good Friday Liturgy: Daughters of Jerusalem. The words of Carol Ann Duffy, winner of the T.S. Eliot prize for poetry in 2006, were used to tell the story of the crucifixion from the perspective of the women who witnessed Christ's Passion. The narrative is recounted imaginatively, as if Mary Magdalene follows the whole sequence of events, including the trial, when she hears from Pilate's wife (whom she knows personally) her advice to her husband. An interlude with Veronica recalls the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Duffy is a good choice, because of the quality of her work, her critical relationship to the Catholic Church on account of her sexuality, and her characterfulness. Deirdre Good reproduces her poem Prayer here.

Then there is a good overview and thoughtfully generous interpretation of the NT resurrection appearance narratives from Brian Purfield, Head of Theological Education at Mount Street Jesuit Centre, on Thinking Faith. His approach is broadly consistent with my theological account, I think. Or vice versa. Purfield concludes: "Clearly each writer tries to affirm that Jesus’ bodilyness had very different qualities to ours. These qualities made Jesus unrecognisable in the first moments of his appearances and allowed him the freedom to move easily through, in, and out of space and time without restriction. Each evangelist affirms that the disciples do come to recognise the risen Lord in these appearances but only as Jesus addresses them in some way."

Incidentally, Sean the Baptist has been 'going some' on his blog over Easter. Here's a commendation from him: "Alan Lewis' Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday is one of the most profound and poignant theological works that I know. "

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