Since this is my last post before Good Friday and Easter, I’d like to interrupt the current series for a meditation.
I’ve appreciated the writing of American writer John Updike for many years. I think my interest was first stirred when I learned that he had written a series of short stories set in the fictional town of Olinger, PA, in a book appropriately called Olinger Stories. I later came across his short story “Pigeon Feathers,” the story of a boy’s crisis of faith through the influence of H. G. Wells and a defective local Lutheran minister, which was resolved through the death of a simple barn pigeon. The last sentence of that story really got me.
Eventually I came across his poem “Seven Stanzas at Easter,” which I offer here as a meditation. I don’t believe anything I can say could improve on what he has already said.
He is risen. Indeed.
Seven Stanzas at Easter
by John Updike
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.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
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.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
Photo by Lindsey Garcia on Unsplash
George Lovely says
Powerful! Thanks for sharing this poem.
Barbara Harper says
I’ve never seen this poem before, but I like it. The only other one of his I know is “November,” and the phrase there “the beauty of the bone” of bare trees has always stuck with me since I first saw it. I definitely need to read more of him.