The late American writer John Updike captured the supernatural strangeness of Christianity in this wonderful poem. It’s not much of a stretch for many religious or spiritually inclined people to believe in some sort of life after this present existence. But heaven, or some like existence in a life to come, is not a terribly distinctive teaching of Christianity. Many people believe in a heaven where people’s disembodied souls go after they die. Christianity teaches something even stranger, namely, the resurrection of the body. One day Jesus will return, the dead in Christ will be resurrected, and creation will be fully renewed.
All of this is built upon the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. And I love the way Updike captures the cornerstone nature of this Christian claim. Enjoy!
Seven Stanzas at Easter
By John Updike
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.