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The Meaning of the Earth

On Easter we celebrate a victory.  It is the day we strive to recognize how a certain being died and then overcame death, changing death itself forever.

But that little word ‘death’ seems to have lost its sting, its immediate and visceral power, and so it can be hard for us to develop any kind of feeling for what Easter really is. Indeed, who is really afraid of death anymore?  When surveys are taken of people’s greatest fears, it doesn’t even make the top ten.

But Meaninglessness – that is truly scary.

For us, being alive but severed from all purpose, direction and meaning is far more frightening than death.  Indeed, it is this experience that causes countless souls to seek death as a way of escaping this feeling.  This experience is the abyss that opens up in our time, in our age.  For us, this experience of being severed from meaning and purpose is the experience of a death while we are still alive.  This is why the ‘walking dead’ emerges as an imagination in our culture. And this is the deeper background behind the unique and new expression of the Easter message in our service: Christ is risen to us as the meaning of the earth.

In order to enter more deeply into this Truth we can imagine a river, flowing, full of life toward the great goal of the delta where it becomes one with the mighty and immeasurable mother-ocean.  Now imagine that this river is life.  Not just the things happening around us but imagine it is the life element itself, in all its fullness, vitality and meaning.  This river is The Life of the World, full of direction and purpose.

Now imagine being in that river, being a part of that river, a part of life, flowing with the same sense of direction, integrated in the deep flow of existence, towards its ultimate goal.  But then imagine being spat up on the banks of that river and sitting on the side on the barren rocks, unable to re-enter the flow, going nowhere. That is a place, a very distinct place in the universe, that dry bank outside of the river of life, and it can only be found here on earth.

How does someone speak who knows this experience, who knows this place?

All is in vain…

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which it may be said,

“See, this is new”?

This is the voice of a king of Israel:

 I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.”

 In such a voice the writer of Ecclesiastes speaks, a profound book to find as a part of the sacred scripture (written some 400 years before Christ).  “All is vain” it speaks, and this word there can be alternately translated as futile, absurd or non-sense. Gautama Buddha came to a similar if even more painful analysis of life on earth expressed in the Four Noble Truths: All life is suffering.

In the gospels, as well, we can hear this voice, spoken from the Cross by Jesus.  There he experiences that same part of the Universe we call ‘earth,’ that part that is truly distant from God, fallen out of the great river of life-pulsing purpose and meaning, saying: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  At the culmination of his journey from divinity to humanity, Christ tasted that empty place, that horrific void: the place separated from all meaning and purpose that our creed calls, ‘the grave of the earth.’  He went there; he went in there.

And that was the key.  The God of the River, The God of the Life-Stream of Mankind, the God of the warm flow of purpose-filled, spirit-radiant meaning – He entered the emptiness place.  The God of Life entered Death. And death has never been the same.

By pouring Himself into the empty place, by entering the grave, he transformed it into something else; He changed that dark place within the earth into a kind of womb, a cocoon from which the spirit-filled human being may rise.  This is the victory.  Through Christ’s pouring himself into the earth through his blood on the rock of Golgotha, the grave has become a womb for the birth of our true humanity. Death no longer makes all things vain; it has been integrated into the story of life.  And this means that the earth herself has been united with her purpose.  She is no longer just a grave for the human spirit. Through Christ the grave of the earth becomes the womb for our higher being.

And now we can say, as we do to the children during each Sunday Service: He leads what is living into death that it may live anew.  We need only seek His presence while we are in this place.  For, now He is here.  And when we feel His presence, the presence of the One who rises out of the tomb – when we feel the uplift of His pulsing life within our blood, we enter into the very substance of Easter and feel His victory over death. Through Christ, death becomes not something separated from meaning, separated from spirit, separated from God, it becomes the element Christ leads us into in order that our highest Self can be born and rise.

And so, perhaps, we begin to understand in our depths why the Easter message appears in our movement for religious renewal in a completely new and potent form, expressed in the words: Christ is risen to us as the meaning of the earth.

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Join Rev. Patrick Kennedy for Initiation of the Heart: Deeper dimensions of the practice of compassion in our time and the revelation of the Fifth Gospel, a three part webinar series hosted by the Anthroposophical Society in America.

When: Wednesdays April 11, May 2, May 16 from 7:30-8:30 pm (Eastern)

Why: In this three-part webinar we will explore a signature experience of being alive in our time – the overwhelming experience of taking in the suffering of the world. We will ask, “Why is divine wisdom leading us into these experiences?” To answer this question we will delve into Rudolf Steiner’s research called “The Fifth Gospel,” a gospel uniquely appearing in our time. We will especially focus on the so-called, ‘unknown years’ of Jesus, from age 12 to 30, where his path leads him through experiences that open him up to become a bearer of the world healer, the one we know of as ‘Christ.’

April 11: Feeling the World: The “world significance” of our inner lives

May 2: Initiation of the Heart: Jesus and his path to becoming the bearer of Christ

May 16:  Pentecost and the Healing Language of the Heart

Where: Online with Zoom. (Can’t join us for the live webinars? No problem. All registered participants will receive emailed recordings within 24 hours of each live event.)

How: Register at this link. $40 suggested donation.

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To read about how we celebrate Easter at the altar in the Christian Community, visit our festivals page. You can also find an Easter-tide children’s story here.

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