Being Transfigured, 2: Transfiguring Death
I thought last night’s session of “Being Transfigured” was quite rich. Here’s the video recording of the session if you would like to take it in.
The essence of Green’s chapter is that Christ died, really died. Not a time when he was busy “harrowing hell” or in some limbo state until resurrection.
He quoted an especially beautiful and powerful piece from the Catholic theologian Karl Rahner:
“Jesus has accepted death. Therefore, this must be more than merely a descent into empty meaninglessness. He has accepted the state of being forsaken. Therefore, the overpowering sense of loneliness must still contain hidden within itself the promise of God’s blessed nearness. He has accepted total failure. Therefore, defeat can be a victory. He has accepted abandonment by God. Therefore, God is near even when we believe ourselves to have been abandoned by him. He has accepted all things. Therefore, all things are redeemed.”
A lot of the discussion veered toward the prevailing take on death in American culture. It is summed up for me in what a friend shared recently. His mother is in hospice care, where he and the family have been told that the word “death” is no longer used. “We call it ‘transition,'” he was told. Plus the massive industry aimed at help us to fight off aging.
Green was especially good, I thought, on holding the “knot” of meanings and complexities of death in Christian thought. On one hand, death as a power that distorts and disfigures life, is to be resisted, as Jesus did throughout his ministry by raising the dead. On the other, our mortality and finitude are part of our created nature and to be accepted.
I wondered, aloud, if in America today we are resisting finitude and mortality, while being less concerned about resisting the evil power, Death, in the many ways it disfigures, distorts and destroys life as God intended it. Which would the opposite of Christ’s way and call.
Anyway, it was great session. Check it out.