Easter Reading: Between Cross and Resurrection

Allow me to make a suggestion for anyone who wants to do some in-depth exploration of the nature of Easter Faith.  Alan Lewis’ Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday is one of the most profound and poignant theological works that I know.  T. F. Torrance in the blurb on the jacket calls it ‘the most remarkable and moving book I have ever read’.  Essentially it is a work that explores cross and resurrection from the perspective of the mid-point of Easter Saturday.  Its is not  an easy read (over 450 pages of deep theolohical reflection) and Lewis’ reflections are shaped by immersion in the theology of Luther, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Jungel, Moltmann and von Balthasar.  What gives the discussion its edge, however, is the fact that mid way through writing it Lewis was diagnosed with a cancer from which he eventually died, before completing the work.  This renders the final chapter on ‘Living the Story in Personal Life’ a classic of spiritual and theological autobiography.  Here are two quotations from that final chapter to whet your appetite.  I recommend that, following your Easter celebrations you get a copy, as a way of getting a better understanding of what you have just been celebrating, and as a way of preparing for next year.

On Death

Death is relationlessness and utter isolation, the absence of others and the final severance of those connections with neighbors, friends and family which have been in an accelerating process of collapse throughout the period of one’s dying.  By the end, all relationships are broken, and our solitude is complete, save for the presence of the fearful by all-gracious Judge.  No matter how the dying of a loved one might break our hearts and make us wish that we could substitute our lives for theirs, suffering and even dying in their stead, that is one act of selflessness which is denied us.  To lay down one’s life for one’s friends can give them at best a temporary reprieve.  The time still comes when they and we, utterly bereft of community or substitutes, must complete a journey which no one else can take.  Then, if not before, with the self quite naked and absolutely singular, the question, however much evaded through life and theologically perhaps best left to last in any case, will be postponed no longer.  It is the final question raised by Easter Saturday, when God’s own self, clothed in our humanity, lies dead and buried, abandoned, solitary, all alone: the question ‘ Who am I?’ (438-439)

On Baptism

To be baptized, and thus appropriate to oneself the historical event in which once and for all one’s identity was crucified and buried with Christ Jesus, is itself nothing less that to have an Easter Saturday identity.  Baptism confirms our unity with Christ, and thus our participation in his repentance which led from the cradle to the Jordan, to the cross and tomb.  In this union, sealed with the sign of water the drowns, cleanses, and gives new life, we repent of our old identity, consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus, who himself has died to sin and ended death’s dominion.  For at whatever age this sign is laid upon us, we receive it with empty hands open for the gift of grace, becoming like the little children of whom God’s kingdom is comprised. (447-448)

I think this book is a theological and spiritual classic, and deserves to be better known.  Hence this recommendation!