Pondering the Mystery: Questions for the Great Fifty Days

May 2, 2002

In our liturgical year Easter isn’t just one day but a season of fifty days leading up to Pentecost. During these days we are invited to ponder and appropriate the mystery of resurrection in both its subtle and more obvious forms. I find myself asking: what does resurrection mean to me and in what ways have I been and am I being overtaken by its reality? Put somewhat differently, and drawing on the words of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, I might ask: how is Christ seeking to “Easter” in me, to be a “dayspring to the dimness”of me?

The answer is quite simple. It is through the events and circumstances of my life – the choices, the decisions, the joys and failures that shape and mold and challenge me – that the Risen One draws me out of myself and my self-constructed and often highly defended private world – which can be a tomb of sorts – into the expansive realm of resurrection.

As the days of Easter unfold, I have been reflecting upon the various chapters of my life. What was God up to during these times? How was I pulled into resurrection life? For myself, I think of my seasons of ministry that have taken me from being a parish priest to Presiding Bishop. It is clear to me now, as it was not always at the time, that each season has had its own very real role to play in deepening and expanding my awareness of what it means to inhabit the words of St. Paul “It is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me.” Each season – in its own way and own time – has pulled me ever deeper into the resurrection reality.

As a parish priest my world was very much the parish. My encounter with Christ was mediated by a life shared with the men, women and children who made up the congregation. Presiding at the Eucharist week by week was an intimate experience of sharing the bread of life and the cup of salvation with people I knew and deeply loved. I was privileged to share their burdens and joys and thus when I preached could speak a true word to them based on that knowing.

When I became a diocesan bishop I experienced a sense of deep loss. Instead of one congregation being my community there were now 141 communities of which I was a part. The differences in these communities that I experienced week by week as I made my visits stretched and confounded my previously held notions of what it meant to be the body of Christ. I had always had very specific ideas of “how it ought to be.” In this new season I was exposed to local vagaries that were always presented to me as “the usual thing.” Paradoxically, the relinquishment of intimacy with one congregation opened the way to being able to embrace the fullness of the Risen Christ in a new way present in the congregations that made up the diocese. Over the years the diocese became my community and its congregations, in all their singularity, became places of encounter with the Risen Christ.

In the time I have served as your Presiding Bishop, Christ has drawn me even further beyond myself into realms I never dreamed of. Through the life we share as the Episcopal Church, and also the manifestation of Christ’s risen body we call the Anglican Communion, I have been shown the face of the Risen One in altogether new ways. This has demanded of me an expansion of consciousness and a capacity to make room for the unfamiliar and the “other” which have been nothing less than life-changing. As well, I have been stretched by our deep and developing relationships with other ecclesial and religious bodies: those of differing faith traditions, some similar and others altogether different that also speak of God’s passion for reconciliation – which lies at the very heart of the resurrection.

Though at any moment I may cry Enough is Enough, I realize deep in my heart that there is always more, and the more comes not from within myself but from the Risen Christ who seeks to draw me – both as a person and a minister of his reconciling love – into the dazzling and overwhelming fullness of his all-transforming risenness.

Reflecting on your own life you might wish to ask yourself the same questions: how is Christ seeking to “Easter” in you? How is the Risen One drawing you out of yourself into new places of being and discovery through the turnings of your life, through your struggles and your joys? How is Christ seeking to expand your heart and to make you a more authentic sign of his reconciling love?

During these days of Easter may such prayerful pondering of the circumstances of your own life bring you into ever deepening companionship with Christ, the living and Risen One. And may the words of St. Paul become your own truth: It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.

The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold
XXV Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA

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