Written by: Very Reverend Robert Barron
Magnificat – Holy Week 2015, Vol. 17, No. 1 (no copyright infringement intended)
Myths express not historical events but the great necessities and rhythms of nature. And this is why they are set in illo tempore (once upon a time), or a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… No one wonders exactly when Hercules was born or on what planet Luke Skywalker went to school, for those characters aren’t part of the real world but rather symbolic representations of timeless truths. Many people are tempted today to construe the story of Jesus’ Resurrection as a mythic tale, a symbolic narrative expressive of the life force or the regenerative power of nature. But as C. S. Lewis observed, those who think the Resurrection of Jesus is simply another myth haven’t read many myths.
Jesus’ story is not set in illo tempore, but in a very definite, historically verifiable period of time, when Herod was tetrarch of Galilee and Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea. The Gospel narrators mention well-known places such as Galilee, Jericho, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem. And they speak, with breathtaking directness, of “eating and drinking” with their friend Jesus after he rose from the dead. Moreover, all of these first witnesses, with the exception of Saint John, went to their deaths defending the truth of what they taught. How many martyrs are there to Osiris, Hercules, or Dionysus? The answer is none! No one dies for a mythic abstraction, but people were more than willing to die for their friend, “whom they had looked upon and their hands had touched,” and who had come back from the dead. To grasp this still-startling truth is to grasp the meaning of Easter.
“Faith in the Resurrection of Jesus says that there is a future for every human being; the cry for unending life, which is a part of the person, is indeed answered. Through Jesus, we do know ‘the room where exiled love lays down its victory.’ He himself is this place, and he calls us to be with him and in dependence on him. He calls us to keep this place open within the world so that he, the exiled love, may reappear over and over in the world… God exists: that is the real message of Easter. Anyone who even begins to grasp what this means also knows what it means to be redeemed.”
– Pope Benedict XVI
Photo by: Belén Alemán / Easter Vigil Ceremony, St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, San Francisco