It’s Easter, and in all the churches that have been part of my life, I imagine what is going on today. There will be the welcome of joyful, loved hymns; glorious choral music from carefully rehearsed choirs; a headiness of lilies banked at the front of the sanctuary, and little boys wriggling in stiff shirts, little girls self-conscious in bright new dresses. There will be baptisms and confirmations; reception of new members; and words, words, words of resurrection, new life, renewal, promises, even salvation. It is a wonderful time of rejoicing and hope.
For one of the rare Easters of my life, I am not going to church. It feels odd, pulling deliberately out of the ritual. Today, though, I am attending to the introversion that is still new in my conscious temperament, wanting to avoid the throngs and all the joyful noise. Yes, as soon as it’s too late, I will probably regret not being there. But for now, I am simply letting Easter itself fill me. I’m thinking about resurrection, about what it might mean, and how that becomes a shaping myth.
What led to this was reading a post, earlier this morning, from the blog Voicing Psyche. The author quotes Mircea Eliade, from Time and Eternity in Indian Thought, p. 173:
Mythical or sacred time is qualitatively different from profane time, from the continuous and irreversible time of our everyday, desacralized existence. In narrating a myth, we reactualize, as it were, the sacred time in which occurred the events of which we are speaking. […] In a word, myth is supposed to take place in an intemporal time, if we may be pardoned the term, in a moment without duration, as certain mystics and philosophers conceive of eternity. This observation is important, for it follows that the narration of myths has profound consequences both for him who narrates and for them who listen. By the simple fact of a myth’s narration, profane time is–symbolically at least–abolished: narrator and audience are projected into a sacred, mythical time.
Mythical time, it occurs to me, is the time we find in stories not only of great sacred figures like Moses and Elijah and Jesus, and of real cultural icons like Martin Luther King and psychological icons such as the Superheroes and Frodo (and now, probably, Harry Potter). Mythical time occurs also around narratives of the quite ordinary people who tell of their near-death or spiritually transformative experiences. It is that indescribable time in which the events of an “elsewhere” are inscribed into memory to be brought back into waking consciousness, where they begin to reshape lives. It is that “moment without duration,” as Eliade calls it, that becomes indefinable but imperative.
This morning, then, I am sitting in that indefinable moment that is Easter and an indefinable resurrection and its two-thousand-year memory in my people. Not a bad intemporal place to be, at all.