What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


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If we reflect upon the attributes of God, surely among the most astounding (though one trembles to undertake some hierarchy of the ineffable) must be the Incarnation. That God might don the flesh and dwell with us, truly as man and not some facsimile or intricate illusion, amounts to the kind of paradox that can only come to seem pedestrian precisely because it did happen. Even many who reject it are nevertheless resigned to it. We might almost say the triumph of Christianity lies in the persistent indifference to its central doctrine.

Ho hum, another Christmas. Ho hum, another Good Friday. Ho hum, another Easter.

But when Pilate pronounced those two Latin words — “Ecce homo” — he shook the foundations of the world. Probably he meant it as a sneer, a last mean insult after appalling abuse and mockery. Or possibly his cynicism subsided for a moment, replaced by a weary remnant or fleeting flash of pity. (Do we see something similar when, as recorded by St. Matthew, Pilate tells the priests and Pharisees to detail their own blasted guard for the tomb — cynicism or conscience?)

In any case, this phrase in this context, “behold the man,” contemplated in full, discloses unplumbable depths. Pair it with Christ’s words in answer to the Incredulity of St. Thomas — “behold my hands” — and we encounter again the incarnate reality, the bodily fact, of the Son of Man; stricken, afflicted, accursed; and then risen, radiant, triumphant. We behold our Lord and Savior.

The word appears nearly thirty times in the Apocalypse of St. John. “Behold, I have set before you the open door.” “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.” “Behold, I am making all things new.” “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me.”


But whatever this is, it is no ho hum Easter, is it? In obedience another prophetic text in Scripture — “seek the welfare of the city” — we are prevented this Easter from beholding one another, from beholding the Body of Christ gathered, except by means of attenuating technology. Mistake me not: we bless the Lord for that technology! Had this plague struck even a decade ago, how much greater and more trying would have been the isolation. Still, we celebrate today under an unnatural attenuation: the isolation is real and aching. The Lord’s Supper remains for most of us in abeyance. We wonder how long before the right hand of fellowship might be extended again without trepidation, how long before the voices of many families, rather than a single family, might join to sing our beloved hymns of praise.

But we may still behold our Lord. And the empty tomb He left behind.

Comments (2)

Thank you, Paul.

No, it is no ho-hum Easter, for never could there be a ho-hum Easter unless we were to abandon celebrating Easter as the memorial of the Lord's rising to life from death, and the promise of our own rising from our own deaths.

Still, it will surely be remembered as The Quiet Lent and The Quiet Easter. No big events, no public celebrations, no large gatherings of ANY sort. I praise God that, having raised children that can sing, we were able to sing in the Risen Christ, and contribute, in a tiny way, to the online celebration of the Easter Mass so that others could participate from home in as fitting a way as we have for the nonce.

This Easter, I guess, God is teaching us to do the kind of BEHOLDing that can be done with the eyes of faith, an interior activity that relies on the evidence of the senses only derivatively and remotely (though it remains relying on them anyway, since "faith comes through hearing".) This is, in any case, the kind of lesson Christ meant to teach the Apostles by leaving and then sending the Holy Spirit. Yet leaving us yearning to one day behold Him once more with the eyes of the body confirming what we have faithfully believed in all along, His return in glory.

A number of my Facebook friends published that if the church is empty, so is the tomb--clever, but not therefore without merit.

Still, life is very frightening in very many ways and from many different vectors, and I don't know how people stay in the realm of "tragedy rather than hell" (to use a Jordan Peterson contrast) without Jesus Christ.

A blessed Easter season to fellow contributors and readers alike.

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