If you are alive and reading this right now, chances are you make decisions about to whom you will listen and like based on personality. For some, you will consciously ignore their personality because of the benefits he/she purveys to you; others, you will not tolerate, no matter what their message, stance, deal, whathaveyou. I’m not talking about the realm of legality; e.g., you will do as President Obama says because he, in the end, puts the rubber stamp to the laws, whether you like his personality or not.
But what about the church leaders with whom you agree, despite disliking their personalities? Or the professors whose books you enjoy reading, despite the fact that you wouldn’t be caught dead having coffee with them?
The interesting thing about history is that these lines are blurred very, very quickly. We know that MLK Jr. was a great guy, and combined with his message, hardly anyone would admit to not liking him. Probably the same is true for someone like Billy Graham or Abraham Lincoln. But what about people like Glenn Beck? I know plenty of people who ascribe to his political ideology without even realizing it, though they publicly decry his attitude and personality. They’d never in a million years say he was a good guy.
Reading about the life of Athanasius got me started on this. There is no doubt that his writings and his stances on the being, essence, and divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit are monumental, utterly influential, and will continue standing the test of time as they already have for well over 1600 years. Recent (within the last 50 years or so) historiographical research, however, seems to be of the opinion that he might not have exactly been a model Christian. (Being embroiled in politics does that.) But does that seem to affect people’s reception of him? Not so much.
All that to say…time blurs lines between the things that last and the things that don’t, even if you think some of the things that don’t last might be more important. How will the public, or the Church, remember certain leaders 50-1000 years from now differently than we see them in this moment?
At Evening Prayer tonight I was able to share with my students the Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom, since we hadn’t met for a couple weeks. None of them had experienced a proper Easter Vigil before, so it was fresh to them. It’s hard to proclaim it without tearing up; every time I read it, it overpowers me. So, even if you’ve read it before, read it again, remembering that Easter is a season, and that Christ’s triumph over the grave was because of his love for you and me.
Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!