Friday, April 25, 2008

[orthodox easter] today is good friday in pascha

So much has been written about the whys and wherefores of the Crucifixion.

The slightly insane Mel Gibson produced a gory film I’m still not sure about. I’ve also thought long and hard whether to run an article by Dr. C. Truman Davis, vice president of the American Association of Ophthalmology, which is also gory in its medical descriptions. It is not for the faint-hearted and if you can’t stomach such things, best to pass this over.

All I can say is, having read it, it wouldn’t have been a whole lot of fun for Him. The main focus of Easter is the resurrection but His death bears thinking about as well. Here is a fragment from the text which you can read the whole of here:

Every ruse imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away this description, apparently under the mistaken impression that this just doesn’t happen. A great deal of effort could have been saved had the doubters consulted the medical literature.

Though very rare, the phenomenon of Hematidrosis, or bloody sweat, is well documented. Under great emotional stress of the kind our Lord suffered, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. This process might well have produced marked weakness and possible shock.

After the arrest in the middle of the night, Jesus was next brought before the Sanhedrin and Caiphus, the High Priest; it is here that the first physical trauma was inflicted ...

The symbol that all the fuss and vitriol is all about

I hope we can begin from a position further advanced than questioning whether the crucifixion took place - that much scholars generally concede. The real issue is if the resurrection took place. One such discussion is described here:

A critical debate on the question "Did Jesus rise from the dead?" took place recently between world-renowned atheistic philosopher, Dr. Antony Flew, and New Testament scholar, Dr. Gary Habermas. A panel of five philosophers from leading universities judged the outcome.

What was the conclusion? Four votes for Habermas. None for Flew. And one draw. One respondent to the debate, philosopher Charles Hartshorne, admitted against his own bias:

"I can neither explain away the evidence to which Habermas appeals, nor can I simply agree with Flew’s or Hume’s positions."

Dr. Flew was judged to have retreated into philosophical sophistry while evading a whole host of widely-acknowledged historical facts.

To me, a lot of the claims and counter-claims fall wide of the mark. In this thing you're not going to be able to prove or disprove but a more scientific approach would be to look at the most likely scenario:

The authorities ... to deflate the new religious enthusiasm ... used every expedient in their power. They harassed, arrested, threatened, and flogged the apostles [but] could not produce Jesus' body. Central to the preaching of the early church was the joyous assertion that Jesus had risen from the dead.

To produce the body would have terminated the issue once and for all. True - He could have been taken away and ended his days in Kashmir with Mary Magdalene but there is no sustainable evidence of this. The swoon theory is also a good one.

But there is sound evidence that ordinary jews thereafter turned to belief in this resurrection in the face of great privations and disdain. You don't do that sort of thing for nothing. And why would the authorities retaliate the way they did?

Sociologically, the notion of redemption through resurrection was a highly subversive doctrine in those days and in fact in any age. Metaphysically, if one concedes an evil force, then it's just logical it will throw up a host of counter-theories and the first step is to suppress anything likely to support the contention in the first place.

One of the more powerful supports which the notion of the resurrection enjoys is the attempt to imitate it both through the Moloch ritual "passing through the fire" which world leaders emulate at Bohemian Grove and through occult rituals themselves, particularly on Walpurgis night [coming up soon - keep your eye on your children, parents, around May 1st].

This notion of resurrection and reincarnation is ancient, powerful and persistent. The further notion that it was achieved in those three days of Pascha is not one likely to endear itself to the wider world.

The Pascha Ritual

Wiki gives this explanation:

Preparation for Pascha begins with the season of Great Lent. In addition to fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, Orthodox Christians cut down on all entertainment and non-essential worldly activities, gradually eliminating them until Great and Holy Friday.

Traditionally, on the evening of Great and Holy Saturday, the Midnight Office is celebrated shortly after 11:00 p.m. (see Paschal Vigil). At its completion all light in the church building is extinguished.

A new flame is struck in the altar, or the priest lights his candle from a perpetual lamp kept burning there, and he then lights candles held by deacons or other assistants, who then go to light candles held by the congregation.

Then the priest and congregation process around the church building, holding lit candles, re-entering ideally at the stroke of midnight, whereupon Paschal Matins begins immediately followed by the Paschal Hours and then the Paschal Divine Liturgy.

Immediately after the Liturgy it is customary for the congregation to share a meal, essentially an Agápē dinner (albeit at 2:00 a.m. or later). In Greece the traditional latenight dinner is mageiritsa, a hearty stew of chopped lamb liver and wild greens seasoned with egg-and-lemon sauce.

Traditionally, Easter eggs, hard-boiled eggs dyed bright red to symbolize the spilt Blood of Christ and the promise of eternal life, are cracked together to celebrate the opening of the Tomb of Christ.

Dutch Easter - the persistent notion of "passing through the fire", also much emulated by the other side

The day after, Easter Sunday proper, there is no liturgy, since the liturgy for that day has already been celebrated. Instead, in the afternoon, it is often traditional to celebrate "Agápē Vespers". In this service, it has become customary during the last few centuries for the priest and members of the congregation to read a portion of the Gospel of John (20:19–25 or 19–31) in as many languages as they can manage.

For the remainder of the week (known as "Bright Week"), all fasting is prohibited, and the customary Paschal greeting is "Christ is risen!," to be responded with "Truly He is risen!"

Bit of fun

An article in The New York Times of May 11, 2002, written by Emily Eakin, reviewed a conference on ethics and belief at Yale University in April, 2002:

Eakin said Richard Swinburne, a Greek Orthodox professor of philosophy from Oxford University, used a probability formula known as Bayes's theorem to assign values to factors like the probability that there is a God, the nature of Jesus' behavior during his lifetime, and the quality of witness testimony after his death.

God overrides natural laws

“For someone dead for 36 hours to come to life again is, according to the laws of nature, extremely improbable,” Professor Swinburne said. “But if there is a God of the traditional kind, natural laws only operate because He makes them operate.”

Swinburne gave his notes and calculations to the audience so they could follow while he did the math.

“Given e and k, h is true if and only if c is true,” he said. “The probability of h given e and k is .97”.

In plain English, Professor Swinburne's calculations allegedly show that the probability that the Resurrection really happened is a staggeringly high 97 per cent.

Many other academics have weighed into the defence of the Christian faith, the newspaper said. Brian Leiter, a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, noted, “It would be accurate to say that it's a growth movement.”

So there you go - ignore it at your peril. :) Finally, to all you good people out there [and bad] :

Христос Воскрес. Воистину Воскрес!


Nunyaa said...

Only if one believes in all that is written. I do not.

Ginro said...

Crist aras! Crist soþlice aras!

Semaj Mahgih said...

You believe in nothing written, Nunyaa? Interesting.

Ginro - Ic þē þancie.

Nunyaa said...

I'm talking about the bible James.

Julie said...

I was unable to read much further past the 'subcutaneous tissue' point in the Truman Davis medical account of crucifixion which you used, but today you've reminded me of how surely I believe in the resurrection of Christ, equally 'unreadable' as that may at first appear.

Semaj Mahgih said...

Not unreadable - understand, Julie and I can't read through that stuff either. It's amazing what He went through.

jmb said...

Well I have read the gory details of death by crucifixion before so won't hit the link.

The thing is that there is no way that the resurrection can be proved or disproved. It can only be a matter of faith at this point in time, so philosophers can debate till the cows come home with no definitive answers.

One thing that should be said is that the definition of death is not so clearcut in the light of modern science. But the spear in the left side is hardly likely to have left Christ alive when he was taken down from the crucifix.

Christ has died, Christ will rise and Christ will come again.

Semaj Mahgih said...

Agreed, JMB.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

And a peaceful Pascha to you, James.

Semaj Mahgih said...

Thank you. And to you.