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.
– John Updike. Seven Stanzas at Easter. 1960.
While reading Kent Annan‘s After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World Is Shaken (InterVarsity Press. 2011), I came across selections from John Updike’s Seven Stanzas at Easter. On Easter, as he wrestles with faith in the face of “scientific modernity’s assault on faith in the resurrection,” Kent appreciates reading Seven Stanzas at Easter:
I can identify with these doubts, but he [Updike] asserts they shouldn’t embarrass us into unbelief. The stanzas of the poem articulate the kind of faith I need in response to Haiti, where so many died (by comparison, a similar-intensity earthquake in Los Angeles in 1994 killed only seventy-two people) largely because they had been left behind by poverty by the modern world.
I nod Amen with him, as the physical specificity of faith (of the Savior) must respond to the physical, concrete rubble that I drive by in Haiti, as well as the physically decomposed bodies I see even months later being uncovered and put into plastic bags that are thrown into the back of dump trucks:
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-mâché ,
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.
Walking “through the door” makes sense as a description of faith, more so to me than the famous definition in Hebrews 11: “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (TNIV). — 95 – 96.
What do you think of John Updike’s Seven Stanzas at Easter and Annan’s meditation upon it? How do you live in and articulate the reality of the resurrection in the midst of higher education?
Note: For those of you interested in learning more about the poem and author, I recommend beginning with On Easter and Updike (David E. Anderson. Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly. 4/7/2009).