I do not understand most poetry; however, a year of COVID helps me better understand John Updike’s poem “Seven Stanzas at Easter.” In the first four stanzas, Updike writes:
Make no 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
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
A year of global suffering, zoom meetings, physical distancing, and so much more has caused me to yearn for a fully embodied Easter where cells and molecules will “reknit” and amino acids will “rekindle.” I do not want the metaphor of Easter, I want a real Easter where people sneeze from smelling lilies, trumpet descants resound, loved ones are hugged, children wear shiny shoes, and the smell of pancakes fill the air.
But to want a real Easter and to believe in a real resurrection, means so much more than Easter celebrations. It means that all people matter. It means justice and equity matter. It means our vocations matter. It also means that even with pandemic restrictions we must find ways to “walk through the door” to live in ways so all people would flourish.
Looking back on the past year, I must commend all of us for finding ways through the door. It has not been pretty, death and resurrection rarely are but in our own ways, we have been beautiful. May we continue to strive to live embodied lives. Christ is risen!