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Resurrection: ‘do not hold on to me!’

Epiphany 2This Easter I have noticed important transformation taking place in my life. New Life. Intentionally, I can connect it to the weeks leading up to the church’s celebration of the story of resurrection and am grateful the liturgical calendar can provide a backdrop against which to experience the changes. Yet these changes go far beyond religious and liturgical programming.

Rewind to a few months ago: I had the privilege of realizing an important dream of mine: to hold a community interfaith art exhibit on a theme chosen out of consideration for the many different beliefs and faiths that surround us in a pluralist society like Montreal:

Believe/How will you celebrate it?

In the poster for the call for art submissions and for the closing event, I illustrated the etymological underpinning of the ‘believe’ concept: to believe is not merely to endorse an ‘objective truth’ claim; it is a personal value, a matter of the heart, a choice.

I was overwhelmed by the response to the call for submissions: more than 20 artists chose to participate and our community studio was bursting with beautiful art of diverse media: paintings, poems, sculptures, photos, etc. I was also deeply moved at the closing event when numerous people, artists and guests of the exhibition, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to come together around such a theme. “Will you be organizing more of these?” so many wanted to know.

Then, during Holy Week, I met with a couple of Baha’i young adults, one of whom I had met at a dialogue event on the arts as a means to express and explore spirituality. We had a lively exchange about the possibility of starting a faith & art collective in Montreal to facilitate more opportunities to affirm the motivating role that faith plays in the lives of so many people who often feel dissuaded from expressing this key aspect of themselves openly. We talked about the heavily competitive and consumerist dimensions of the world we currently experience. We refused to accept this to be the underlying truth or reality of our existence and lives. I found myself saying: ‘if we continue to affirm this as truth and reality, then it is what our truth and reality indeed will be; but if we have the courage to affirm a different truth and reality, then things can change.”

Fast forward to Easter day. I’m listening to the proclamation of the Gospel of John in which Jesus and Mary Magdalene are having a conversation after Mary discovers the empty tomb. At first, she does not recognize Jesus and believes him to be the gardener of the property. When she understands it is him, Mary is excited and no doubt relieved: all is not lost! Jesus is still here with us! Yet Jesus immediately dispels any notion that things can return to how they were, for something irreversible has just happened. He tells her ‘do not hold on to me’, for his ascension–the full articulation of his story–has yet to take place. Mary Magdalene is to take the news of his resurrection to the other disciples, who have returned home possibly feeling very disappointed at the turn of events. In the time that follows Jesus appears, disappears, and reappears to the disciples. His on-and-off presence serves as a reminder of what they have committed to; yet they must now figure things out together, by virtue of the beliefs they have formed during their time with him, yet without the security and comfort of their teacher. They must not hold on to him.

This brings me to the pivot of transformation taking root in me this Easter. I am believing the Easter story in a deeper way than I have previously experienced. I tangibly perceive the surfacing of New Life, new opportunities, a new way forward. And it is good! Yet, I also sense very strongly that this promised land of new light and wonder can only unfold if I do not hold on to indeed many aspects that have been guiding me and (subconsciously) informing my choices up until now. It is of no use to reiterate affirmations that superficially veil an ocean of disempowering and unprogressive beliefs. I must re-examine my most deeply internalized convictions, take stock of how they are shaping my reality, and let go of portions of childhood inheritance that do not serve well while proactively building up all that does.

What better journey could I look forward to celebrating in these 50 days of Easter!

 

Afra Saskia Tucker

About Afra Saskia Tucker

I am Development Coordinator at the Montreal Diocesan Theological College. Blessed with a multi-cultural family and an inclination to learn about other faith traditions, I have learned from my life experiences here and abroad that encounters with people of different faiths, beliefs, and cultures are in fact essential and enriching to my own faith journey.
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3 Responses to Resurrection: ‘do not hold on to me!’

  1. Hi Afra ,

    I really enjoyed reading this , as alot of what you have written here resonates with some of my basic theological commitments , especially this: ” If we continue to affirm this as truth and reality , then it is what our truth and reality indeed will be ; but if we have the courage to affirm a different truth and reality , then things can change”

    Could it be that this ‘different reality’ has already changed this , and our courageous affirmation of its truth changes us? Can things be changed through us , by our being changed by wonder? In thinking this through , I found this helpful (And I hope you might as well): http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2010/12/03/thinking-otherwise/

    I also really enjoyed your remarks on the Resurrection in John. One of the things that has always fascinated me about the resurrection narratives (especially the narrative in Mark’s gospel) is the theme of Jesus’ presence and absence. As you have already noted , Easter faith is not a faith of security , but one of openness to God , and this openness coincides with newness of life. I would add that this newness of life is always perceived as a ‘new event’ and confronts us in the present moment , as God is not one who stands still , but whose transcendence lies in God’s coming again and again. God’s coming is a fresh word, that calls our words of yesterday into question.

    I also wonder..Is the Risen Jesus actually absent? When ‘ present’ he is among the people (usually outcasts) , and when absent he calls us to find him among the people (usually outcasts). What do you think this says about the relation between knowledge of God and our Being-Together?

  2. Afra Saskia Tucker

    Thank you for your detailed comment, Tapji Taps Garba!
    Especially for the link to that fascinating article.

    “Could it be that this ‘different reality’ has already changed this, and our courageous affirmation of its truth changes us? Can things be changed through us, by our being changed by wonder?”

    I like how you put this and I agree wholeheartedly. I can see myself integrating the application of the term ‘wonder’ in my life in a way that offers complementary impact alongside gratitude and celebration.

    With regards to Jesus’ absence and presence: I think the absence may be of utmost importance (and cause for ‘wonder’) as it is what calls us anew into the presence of transcendence (aka Christ)–and in startling ways that we could not foresee if we insisted to grasp at what Mary-Jane Rubenstein describes as the oxymoronic “claim to know what that transcendence looks like.” (hence Jesus’ request not to be held back) All I can do is set my value at ‘transcendence’ and do my part in its laying bare.

  3. Hi Afra,

    Yes i think that you are right to keep the presence and absence of Jesus’ in a sort of Dialectical tension. A tension that isn’t sublated or synthesized into something greater. In this way , the presence of the Risen Christ is a gracious event , that we cannot hold back.

    What do you mean by ” All I can do is set my value at ‘transcendence’ and do my part in its laying bare.”?

    I like what it sounds like , and I think I know where your going with it , but can you say a bit more?

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