A Happy Easter to Everyone.
One of the things that Luther found helpful in his spiritual life was a work he thought was written by Tauler, the Theologia Germanica. It’s a work of medieval mysticism. You might consider it something like “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis. Or even later maybe the “Spiritual Exercises” by Ignatius Loyola. Calvin, being the strictly logical lawyer, rejected it completely. The more radical reformation picked it up and much mischief was done. Those two facts are probably what fed Protestantism’s allergy to even slight mysticism. Of course since it was a Luther favorite, it was eventually banned by the Catholic church in 1612. Although they removed the ban in the 20th century.
I bring that up for two reasons. First, I know that I wouldn’t bring up mysticism inflected things into the pulpit, so in a week that I need three sermons it is safe to use for this article. Second, I do think that a bit of mysticism is healthy for the soul. One of my sources of this is the sayings of the desert fathers. These sayings and honestly their entire lives are just so radically different than ours trying to ponder what they say puts me way out of my comfort zone.
On Easter, pondering the resurrection, I wanted to share a story that strangely enough is repeated in the collection of sayings. The first one by Macarius the Great. He was a monk around 390 AD. The entire movement was inspired just a bit earlier by Anthony the Great. Many men and women born to great families and wealth would give it all up to live in the Egyptian desert. Macarius’ story is of meeting a distraught widow. Her husband had taken a deposit of money on trust and hidden it. But he had died and not disclosed to her where it was. Their children would have been taken in slavery if she could not produce it. Macarius asks where the man was buried and tells her to go home. He proceeds to the tomb and asks the corpse, “Where is it hidden?” The corpse replied. Macarius then tells the man to return to resting until the final resurrection. He tells the widow where it is, and she frees her children.
The second version is about Abba Spyridon. A young girl had been entrusted with a valuable ornament that she hid. But she too died soon after without telling anyone where it was. The depositor came asking for it and pressed the girl’s father. Abba Spyridon went to the girl’s tomb and asked God, “show me, before the time, the resurrection promised her.” His hope was not disappointed as she appeared alive to her father and named the place.
What do I say about these? Well, that is part of what mysticism is about, I don’t exactly know. And it is probably different for you anyway. But this is what I would say. We live in time and are worried about many things. Like where our treasure is buried. The truth is that our treasure is buried with Christ. And Christ is risen. Nothing that we think is lost is truly gone. It is with Christ. Whatever we entrust to him we have for eternity. And that is an eternity that starts today. Do we all have resurrection appearances to us? No. And in our skeptical age I’m not sure we’d see even if we did. But the desert Fathers were open to such things. We are all one in Christ. And Christ is not dead, but lives. He lives to make us free.