Thoughts from the Pastor...
by Pastor Jeffrey M. Halenza
An author has related an extraordinary scene in Dostoevski's novel, The Brothers Karamazov. He describes the scene like this… An old monk, Brother Zossima, dies. They lay him out in a coffin in the chancel and all the monks wait around to see a miracle — for the body to give off the fragrance of a rose, or his dead face to flicker with a holy light. He had been a great saint and the monks and the townspeople all expected some sign, some miracle, to confirm this. But no miracle happens, only death and decay happen. And the one who loved the old man most — Alyosha, the youngest of the brothers — stands ready to give the whole thing up as a bad joke, to give up all hope of a miracle, to give up on life, to give up on God himself, and the world that hides God from our sight.
Then he has this dream. He is keeping vigil at the old man’s coffin while one of the monks reads the story of the Wedding of Cana over it — the story of Jesus turning the water into wine and putting gladness back into the party. Alyosha falls asleep as the monk reads, and the dream comes. It is a dream about Cana. There are the guests, the young couple sitting, the wise governor of the feast, and suddenly there is old Zossima too — a little thin old man with tiny wrinkles on his face, and of all the things he could be doing, what Zossima is doing in that dream is laughing.
And when Alyosha wakes up, he does something that he does not fully understand. He runs out of the chapel and rushes down to the monastery yard. He hears inside himself the words, “water the earth with the tears of your joy and love those tears.” Suddenly, he gets down on all fours and kisses the earth. But when he gets up, he is no longer a teary wreck of a boy but a “champion,” Dostoevski writes — some kind of crazy champion and hero.
And perhaps one thing Dostoevski was saying is that there are two ways of living in the world: we can live with despair or with resurrection faith. Like the women coming to the tomb on that Easter morning long ago, with their spices to make death smell a little sweeter, expecting only death, we can pare down our hopes and dreams, expect little, try to sweeten our lives, but little more. We can escape, we can hide, we can look out just for ourselves and try to steel ourselves against all that happens. We can set our faces with grimness and grit our teeth with determination. We can pretty much give up on the whole show, and if not give up on God, then give up on the world that hides God and wrecks so much of what is holy and good.
Or we can be champions of life and of faith — we can embrace life. embrace this earth, and live with the faith that sees beneath the reality of it all, a deeper reality still. The reality that what it is all leading to is greater life, even the feast of laughter. We can live with the faith that says that beneath it all, there is a power that can turn water into wine and put gladness back into life. It can bring us to a greater gladness, a feast of life and joy — even now. We can live with that crazy faith and go out and embrace this earth, this world, and this life itself.
It is not a dream. It is the truth — the truth of the Resurrection. In the power of the living Christ, we can rise up out of all that is dead and wrecked and become champions of faith, of life, and of hope.
It is the power the living Christ offers to us each day.
God be with you,