Rowan Williams on the Resurrection  

Posted by Joe Rawls in ,

Rowan Williams, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, is a former Oxford theology professor. He has a well-deserved reputation for academic obscurantism, but when he puts his mind to it he can write quite convincingly on topics relevant to contemplative spirituality. His knowledge of the Eastern Orthodox tradition is very deep, which is exemplified in The Dwelling of the Light: Praying with Icons of Christ (Eerdmans 2003). He delivers meditations on four different icons, one of which is of the Resurrection.

Christ stands on a precarious-looking bridge, as if he is the one who by the great risks and pains of his incarnation connects what we have pulled apart. And in those icons where we see him reaching out simultaneously to Adam and Eve, it is as if he is reintroducing them to each other after the ages of alienation and bitterness that began with the recriminations of Genesis. The resurrection is a moment in which human beings are reintroduced to each other across the gulf of mutual resentment and blame; a new human community becomes possible. And similarly, remembering the other figures from the first covenant in the background of the picture, we realize that this community is unaffected by any division between the living and the dead: David and Solomon, Abraham, Moses, Elijah and Isaiah are our contemporaries because of Jesus' resurrection (31-32).

The resurrection, then, is to do with the creation of the new humanity, where resentment and hostility are 'unfrozen'; and with the establishment of scriptural revelation as a living relationship within this new humanity. It is the foundation for understanding both Church and Bible. But if we also bear in mind the context in which Maximus the Confessor sets the work of Christ, we can see here in outline the foundation for understanding the relation of Church and creation. The resurrection in principle does away with those factors that frustrate and distort our relation as human beings with our environment--our human and historical environment, all those who have gone before us (Abraham and Moses), but also our natural environment. If the Risen Christ takes hold of and speaks through the great figures of biblical history, can we say that by the same token he speaks through the world around us? That he introduces us to that world and requires us to listen to it and receive from it what he wants to communicate?(35-36)

And in this, of course, we are gradually nudged towards the central realization of all. We are brought into this friendship with the biblical revelation, with each other and with the world because the resurrection of Jesus brings us into friendship with the divine life itself. It is because the uttermost of death and humiliation cannot break the bond between Jesus and the Father that what Jesus touches is touched by the Father too. As he grasps Adam and Eve, so does the Father; as he draws together the immeasurable past with all its failures injuries, it is the Father to whom he draws it. Because of his relation with the Father, a new relation is made possible between ourselves and this final wellspring of divine life. The Christ of this icon, standing on the bridge over darkness and emptiness, moving into the heart of human longing and incompletion, brings into that place the mystery out of which his life streams, represented in the mandora against which his figure is set. The locked gates of death, the frozen lives cut short, these are overcome in the act of new creation which we are witnessing.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 16, 2009 at Thursday, April 16, 2009 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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