Friday, April 17, 2009

The Day of Rest

You are, maybe, wondering why I hardly ever write, and am suddenly writing about such a banal thing as politics on this most Holy of Days?

Well, so am I.

I mostly don't write, because I haven't got anything to say. That's probably a good thing, considering how many people out there still blog anyhow when they haven't got anything to say. So, today, I saw Chavez shaking hands with Obama, and I felt proud of my new president, and decided to write about that.

But, what's today really all about?

This is the great Day of Rest. On the Seventh Day, God Rested from all of his Labours. Today, Christ God rests on the greatest Sabbath of all. He rests from his Labours in the tomb!

Yesterday He was murdered. Today He rests in death. Tomorrow He is Risen from the Dead.

Here's one of my favorite passages about Christ's vastness:
(I'm doing this from memory because I don't have a copy of the Divine Liturgy handy and can't find the text on line.) This is something the priest says at the Altar table after he's brought back the Chalice from giving everyone communion. He usually says it under his breath so you can't really hear it, but the text is there in your service book if you want to read that.

"In the tomb with the body, on the throne with the Father and the Spirit, and in Paradise with the thief, art Thou, O Boundless Christ, thyself circumscribed."

The newer translation doesn't use the word "circumscribed." I forget what it uses but it is something else. But the word "circumscribed" is important here, as is the word "uncircumscribed" which you don't see because there they translated it as "boundless".

Christ God is Boundless. That is to say, He cannot be bounded. That is to say, He cannot be contained. He cannot be circumscribed.

Nevertheless, He WAS (and IS) circumscribed. By His own Choice, God the uncircumscibeable became circumscribed. That is to say, he became "contained" and "bounded". That is to say, He was incarnate (took upon himself flesh, carne.)

One can say that the uncircumscribeable God became circumscribed, by His own choice. And as a circumscibed man and yet eternal God, he was in several places at once on this very day. He was laying in the tomb with the Body, he was on the Throne in Heaven as God, and he was in Paradise with the thief. We are talking about the thief who died on the cross next to Christ, here. To whom He said: "This day shall you be with me in Paradise."

How is it that He was in Paradise? Because he died and entered Hades, and as God, overpowered it, and led the captives of Hades free. He lead them into Paradise.

But get this: he also, never left the body!

If you have a notion, a notion that perhaps might be easy to have: that He died and the God part of his nature went one way leaving the man part of his nature (the flesh) alone in the tomb, well, if you have that notion of his Godhead leaving his body at death the way your soul leaves your body at death. Well, that notion would be wrong.

When He Died, His Godhead, His Divinity, it was still fully present inside his dead, fleshly human body. So, in some incomprehensible way, God died.

And yet, because he is God, when He died, He entered Hell and smashed it to smithereens.

This is a glorious day, this day where He is dead in the tomb. Because on the one hand He rests the greatest rest of all. A rest that not even the most technical Jew can say they've ever rested. He kept the sabbath in a manner surpassing all men before Him, because he was dead that day, and resting quietly in His tomb. And yet, because this bounded One was equally boundless, He was still on His Throne in heaven ruling over all, and he was equally in Paradise on this day with the thief.

This day, is in many ways even more special, mind-boggling, and unique than tomorrow is, where we leave time once-and-for all, entering the eigth day of the week. And yet it is tomorrow that defines it. Tomorrow that demonstrates to the universe the triumph of God over the powers of evil, the triumph of man over sin and death. A day in which we cry out "Christ is Risen!"

He is Risen Indeed!

This is what I love about Obama!

Many of my friends are staunch anti-Obama fanatics. It didn't really go over so well that I supported Obama in the election. And, somehow these people are able to see nothing but "what's wrong with Obama" even now. They are already blaming the economic catastrophe on Obama, although I suspect what we are suffering the consequences of today was something started by Nixon, Ford and Regan. Sure it was something that several successions of Democratic presidencies were unable to fix. Carter and Clinton did nothing to help us avoid where we are at today, but I think it was squarely begun back in the Nixon administration, and brought to it's apex by two successive Bush legacies.

But, I'm digressing.

The reason I voted for Obama was that I had dreams that hopefully his foreign policy would end up being exactly how it is.

We Americans just don't learn from our mistakes. We have generation after generation trying to do the exact same thing and expect different results. (This, by the way is the definition of insanity!)

For more than 20 years, I've been ashamed to be an American from a global perspective. Americans have been known the world over to be bigots who try to force their ideology on others. We like to claim that what we are forcing on them is the will of their own people, we call this "Democracy" and we insult, ridicule, and try to undermine the governments of anyone who disagrees with our own particular twist on democracy. Give me a break people, we didn't even elect our own president on George Bush's first term. How can we be so pathetically vulgar to the rest of the world, telling them we know what's right, and their own people don't. We seem to be able to find some tiny group of malcontents in every society and exploit their ideas and claim that they are main-stream, claim that these people are the true Freedom Fighters who are struggling for democracy.

We always try to force other nations to bend to our will because our way is right. If you look back on history that's what the Persians, and Assyrians and Babylonians, Greeks and Romans always said. The governments said "we know what's right for you" and conquered the rest of the world. We're here to make you all civilized, and then we go on and kill everyone who resists being civilized.

I still say America is one of the greatest lands in the world. It is a country full of opportunity. A country in which all races, creeds and colors can find a place to live to their fullest. Unfortunately, for too many years, in foreign policy our perspective has been that we have to keep all the other potentially threatening nations of the world under our thumb, so they don't get out of control, so they don't become powerful and someday threaten us.

Well, look at the news folks. What threatens us is: us! We are having mass killings weekly now. We are having crazy people who have a few screws loose and unleash their foolishness on many others. There are even a great deal of crazies these days who seem to have gotten some sort of subversive notion that the U.S. Government is going to take away all of their rights, and so these people are going out in droves to buy guns. Are we simply laying the groundwork for the next generations of suicidal mass murderers?

I've said for years that the notion of keeping the rest of the world under our thumbs merely builds up resentment. We are out there actively CREATING enemies. We are out there actively teaching people to hate us!

Well, thank God for what Obama is doing with foreign policy! It is about time that we try to make friends instead of enemies. I think it is perfectly appropriate to meet the leaders of other nations as equals, not as someone inferior because they have a different culture, and discuss common points while trying to encourage values that we think will benefit everyone: like freedom of speech, freedom of commerce, freedom of expression, and so on. You aren't going to see a Cuba with these freedoms using the approach that we've used for the past 70 years. You aren't going to see these freedoms come to life in many other nations either, if we keep treating them disdainfully, refusing to even speak with them until they change.

It is long past time for this approach. My only question is: is it too long past time? Will it do any good, or are we already too late? Have we already created out there the enemies that will ultimately destroy us, or is it not too late?

~ Basil