Contemplating the Awe of Resurrection
I ha’ seen him eat o’ the honey-comb
Sin’ they nailed him to the tree.
from BALLAD OF THE GOODLY FERE | Ezra Pound
Were it not for the fact that the Good News was widely reported that Jesus was resurrected after being crucified in his thirty-third year, Jesus would be a footnote in history and there would be no Christianity. The matter of the Resurrection was first established by numerous eyewitness testimonies. And Jesus did not appear only to various individuals; he also appeared to groups of individuals.
Christianity developed by transforming Jesus’ seemingly radical message about God into a doctrine about Jesus himself. For it is significant to recognize that the testimonies are about a Jesus who was resurrected — he was physically alive again after being physically dead. Although Jesus could appear and disappear, Jesus was not merely a ghost appearing here and there. Ghosts have always been, and still are, rather commonplace. It is very specifically established that Jesus was resurrected — the resurrected Jesus could be touched and he could eat. Only a Resurrection could manifest the sheer awe necessary to inspire the Jesus movement into becoming Christianity.
Shown above is Caravaggio’s “Doubting Thomas” (1601-1602), also known as “Saint Thomas Putting his Finger on Christ’s Wound”. Inspired by Chapter 20 of The Gospel According to John, Caravaggio captures the moment when the doubting disciple Thomas is casting aside all his doubts that this man really is a resurrected Jesus. This encounter is related in John 20:24-29:
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.
25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Because of the Resurrection, it can be said that Jesus completed in less than three years a ministry that was to affect the whole of civilization, and from its humble beginnings was to spread to every corner of the earth. While Christianity hinges on the awe inspired by that Resurrection, the axis of Christianity is GOD IS LOVE.
“What then is Christian love? It is the powerful, radiant and life-giving emotion charged with healing power both to the one who learns to love and to the one who is loved. To some people, this great love comes as a free gift from God, but most of us have to learn it. And how can one learn it? By practice.” — Agnes Sanford
Jesus offered a model, a platform, indeed an action plan of behavior for living and the manifestation of God — love — on earth. Whether or not that manifestation will become “status quo”, we cannot tell. But if it does not, it will not be Jesus or Christianity that failed.
Meantime, Christians will keep on faithfully practicing. The operative word here is “faithfully”. For where awe ends, faith begins.
HE LIVES | “This sort of realistic painting, showing a triumphant Christ, is disparaged by the art cognoscenti, but it is very popular, and in fact Simon Dewey is one of the most visible religious artists of the late 20th century. Its message is strong and direct: Christ is risen, he is the Saviour. The stone is rolled away, and darkness and death are behind him.” — from http://jesus-story.net/painting_resurrection.htm
In Christianity, the “Easter lily” is a symbol of the Resurrection of Jesus. The lily remains highly regarded in the Church, particularly because Jesus references the flower, saying “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Luke 12:27).
“Ballad of the Goodly Fere” is an Ezra Pound poem first published in 1909. The narrator is Simon the Zealot speaking after the Resurrection about his memories of Jesus (the “goodly fere”— Old English for “companion”— of the title).
According to Wikipedia, Pound wrote the poem as a direct response to what he considered inappropriately effeminate portrayals of Jesus, comparing Jesus—a “man o’ men”—to “capon priest(s)”; he subsequently told T.P.’s Weekly that he had “been made very angry by a certain sort of cheap irreverence”.
It is curious and apparently unknown why Pound chose Simon the Zealot to witness about the Resurrection of Jesus. Perhaps it is because Simon is the most obscure of the disciples? Scripture tells us pretty much nothing about him. In the Gospels, he is mentioned in three places where his name is listed with the 12 disciples. Like most of the other disciples, Simon deserted Jesus during his trial and crucifixion. In Acts 1:13 we are advised that he was present with the 11 apostles in the upper room of Jerusalem after Jesus the Christ had ascended to heaven. One Church tradition holds that Simon spread the gospel in Egypt as a missionary and was martyred in Persia.
So we don’t know where Simon came from and what became of him. Thanks to Ezra Pound, perhaps we have as good a perspective as we’ll ever have of what Simon was about through his very telling and compelling testimony attesting that HE IS RISEN.
BALLAD OF THE GOODLY FERE | Ezra Pound
Simon Zelotes speaking after the Crucifixion; Fere = Mate, Companion
Ha’ we lost the goodliest fere o’ all
For the priests and the gallows tree?
Aye lover he was of brawny men,
O’ ships and the open sea.
When they came wi’ a host to take Our Man
His smile was good to see,
“First let these go!” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
“Or I’ll see ye damned,” says he.
Aye he sent us out through the crossed high spears
And the scorn of his laugh rang free,
“Why took ye not me when I walked about
Alone in the town?” says he.
Oh we drank his “Hale” in the good red wine
When we last made company,
No capon priest was the Goodly Fere
But a man o’ men was he.
I ha’ seen him drive a hundred men
Wi’ a bundle o’ cords swung free,
That they took the high and holy house
For their pawn and treasury.
They’ll no’ get him a’ in a book I think
Though they write it cunningly;
No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
But aye loved the open sea.
If they think they ha’ snared our Goodly Fere
They are fools to the last degree.
“I’ll go to the feast,” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
“Though I go to the gallows tree.”
“Ye ha’ seen me heal the lame and blind,
And wake the dead,” says he,
“Ye shall see one thing to master all:
‘Tis how a brave man dies on the tree.”
A son of God was the Goodly Fere
That bade us his brothers be.
I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men.
I have seen him upon the tree.
He cried no cry when they drave the nails
And the blood gushed hot and free,
The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue
But never a cry cried he.
I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men
On the hills o’ Galilee,
They whined as he walked out calm between,
Wi’ his eyes like the grey o’ the sea,
Like the sea that brooks no voyaging
With the winds unleashed and free,
Like the sea that he cowed at Genseret
Wi’ twey words spoke’ suddently.
A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea,
If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.
I ha’ seen him eat o’ the honey-comb
Sin’ they nailed him to the tree.
THE RESURRECTION | Robert Clark Forest Lawn Memorial Park
70′ wide x 51′ high Glendale, California