May 15th, 2006


Time of Passing

Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan, one of the most learned and insightful historians of Christianity in the twentieth century, fell asleep in the Lord this Saturday.  It was Dr. Pelikan's works that really got me interested in the history of the Christian faith; I am one of the countless laypeople that owe a debt to his life's work.

Memory Eternal.


I’ve been dwelling on the word “Pascha”, and particularly its meaning: Passover.  When Christians celebrate Pascha (or Easter as it is known in the West), they are celebrating a Passover, the great Passover that is both cosmic and universal.  And through various readings both in the Scripture and in the writings of theologians wiser than I, I’ve begun to see the grand correlation between the first Passover of the then enslaved Jews and the perfect Passover that we commemorate by the death and resurrection of our God.  You would have thought that this correlation would have appeared a bit earlier in my Christian endeavor, but bear with me: a late bloomer is still a bloomer nonetheless. 


The Jews, preparing to be set free, slay their lamb.  In the same way Jesus is crucified and the world’s lamb is slain.

The Jews then ate the lamb and in doing so the lamb’s life became their life.  Our lamb, through the mystery of the Eucharist, gives his very body, veiled in bread, so that we may have his life in ours.

The blood of the lamb was then coated on the doorposts of the Jews.  As Death loomed over the land of Egypt it took notice of the blood, and thus passed over.  Why?  We see that God has revealed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures that blood is the very life of the animal.  Thus death took notice of this God-mandated life and took flight.  Now the glorious thing is that our lamb’s blood is the very Life of Life, and thus Death has no claim on us:it can do us no harm.  When Death loomed over Egypt, it, for a time, passed over the Jewish slaves, but it would eventually return to to take each and every one of them in the desert.  But in time, another Jew became a slave for our sake and utterly did away with death; it was not so much passed over as it was trampled.


After the slaying of the lamb the people of God then girded up their loins and passed through the Red Sea in which their enemies were crushed.  In the same way, the people of God, the Church, enters into their salvation through the waters of baptism.  The old man (Egypt) is found dead and now only life emerges.  But emerges to what?  Coming out of the water the Jews came to the Mount of Zion and were given the Law.  Emerging from the waters of baptism the Church is given the Spirit of God.  The Law was to the Jews their inhertiance, their divine sign of God's presence among them and their direction in a life of faith.  Likewise, the Spirit to us is the fulfillment of that Law, the power to walk in the Law of Christ and the personal presence of God Himself.


Indeed, I’ve never been totally oblivious to this connection but I suppose that something in the Orthodox celebration of Pascha has finally made it come alive to me.  Futhermore, I stumbled upon this short article on Romans, in which Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright interprets the book of Romans through this Exodus perspective – and how beautifully it fits!


Chapters 1-3: Man’s universal slavery, not to pharaoh but to sin and death

Chapters 4-7: God's way of redemption

Chapters 7-8:  Mt. Zion’s Law contrasted with and fufilled in the Spirit given to the Church

Chapters 9-11: If the true Exodus is not soley for the Jews, then what of the Jews?


Anyhow, it’s a much more interesting little article than what I’ve made it out to be – check it out.


Bookish, etc.

I just finished reading Walker Percy's Lost in the Cosmos.  It is an articulate and profound book on self, semiotics, religion, rampant eroticism, science and the  truth of the Catholic faith.  Particularly enlightening is his whole-hearted embrace of science in which he rejects a faith that is fearful of science and a science that is terrified of God.  A wonderful book; one that might actually change little bits and pieces of me.  

Speaking of books: I walked out of Midway Books yesterday with Faulker's As I Lay Dying and Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.  I am afraid to read much of anything that isn't a "classic" in fear that I'll obtain a bad book.  Perhaps this is only evidence that I cannot decipher a good book from a bad book and thus I need history to decide for me.

I'm willing to live with that.