Juan de Flandes (d. 1519), The Raising of Lazarus (c. 1514-1519) in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain
“Quietness” by Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)
Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You are covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you have died.
Your old life was a frantic running
The speechless full moon
comes out now.
The unusually beautiful clothing worn by all of those in this scene, and even the rich and thick whiteness of the burial cloth of Lazarus (not even a smudge of dirt on it) force us to confront a stark contrast between the naked, suddenly alive again, body of him whom Jesus called – 43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice,* “Lazarus, come out!” – and everyone else in the scene. We may wonder how quickly the self-satisfied faces of the theologically worried tattletales, standing in the arch at the back of the scene would change to expressions so different if they found themselves suddenly naked before the Lord Who made them. What expressions do you suppose?
When Lazarus is brought back to his former life (resuscitation) rather that brought forward into new and eternal life (resurrection), he has his focus right. It is on the Lord alone.
3 Pay attention and come to me;
listen, that you may have life.
Perhaps it takes a good dying (see Rumi’s poem above) for each of us to learn how to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, knowing finally Who matters, after having run after so many false (supposed) sources of life and security. See how those two men in the arch back there are looking to the Powerful Man (we know this about him because his face tells us how much he thinks himself powerful and important). They seek to know from him (!) how to react to the wonder performed by the God-Man Who is standing right there.
It is astonishing, and revealing, to us to notice how that Power Man leaning against the arch (arms crossed; beautiful reddish-orange garment) is not looking at Lazarus, who is surely the most alarming or wonderful thing happening here. Instead, he is looking at the God-Man, whom he has concluded is more powerful than he is. This is a problem for him, who expects people to pay attention to him. The God-Man gives us life, not power – 10 A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy [power, and its abuse]; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
FIRST POINT – One of the first writings of C.S. Lewis that I read was an essay called “Meditation in a Toolshed”. I must have come across it when I was in 7th or 8th grade. Most of it went beyond me, but I still remember the inner “thrill” of recognition that came to me through his opening image (see footnote), and then his conclusion from that image expressed in this way:
As soon as you have grasped this simple distinction, it raises a question. You get one experience of a thing when you look along it [i.e. being inside the thing] and another when you look at it [i.e., being outside the thing]. Which is the ‘true’ or ‘valid’ experience?
Lazarus was dead; he died. We are to have no doubts about this. See him there, in his grave. Recall what Dickens wrote of Jacob Marley: “Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.” To use Lewis’ language, Lazarus, in his dying and death was looking along death (as something he was now knowing from the inside), no longer at death (an object of curiosity, or an idea upon which to expound). As long as death is something that we look at (we live in a culture that will not even look at it), we will fail to understand anything worth knowing about it, because Death, like Life, is something only understood from the inside, by living it. And as long as we resolutely look at death, at our death, its opacity to our understanding is assured … and it will forever scare us like a bogeyman whom we know is coming for us inside our locked house.
The season of Lent, and especially as it lets go and sends us into the Holy Triduum (Holy Thursday evening through Easter Sunday evening), gives us the annual chance “to die with” Jesus. When Jesus, whom we love, dies, some part of us dies also – it is a price of true friendship. But that which dies in us brings us to the inside of death, with Jesus Christ, so that we might see and understand it again, for the first time. Jesus freely died to defeat Death.
SECOND POINT – When Lazarus died, his close (closest?) friend, some central part of Jesus died too. The text says: 3 So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” In the death of his dear friend, Lazarus, Jesus, also experienced Death, was looking along Death, and so understood Death in its pre-resurrection significance … as the Enemy:
When Jesus wrestles with Satan, therefore, he is also wrestling with Death. Like Hades, Death is conceived as an autonomous Power capable of imprisoning human souls without any hope of release.
Here Death was still the Enemy, whose power and significance that day Jesus felt with particular intensity and clarity – He [Jesus] became perturbed* and deeply troubled. Death had yet to meet its appointment with the Trinity at Golgotha, on Good Friday, when Death’s defeat would be heralded with a shout of surpassing fierceness and finality, “It is accomplished”!
1 Corinthians 15: 26 *The last enemym to be destroyed is Death, 27 *for “he subjected everything under his feet.”n
On the one hand there is Death (with the capital “D”). It is one of the ancient and malevolent Powers (a means through which Evil operates in this world). Death is the Un-Maker, where un-making is its most distinctive result (the very contrary of creating). Satan, under the form or Power of Death, hunts us, shames us, works always to frighten us, delighting to see us broken. Or, more accurately, those human beings, who for some reason they judge advantageous to themselves, serve that Power and act out this malevolence on their fellow human beings. This Death is the Enemy, the ancient foe of the human race, that the holy Trinity will destroy once and for all through the sacrifice of the Son. Creation will have dominion henceforth – every unmaking simply an occasion for the Creator to remake, and more beautifully than before!
On the other hand, there is death (with a small “d”). This is for human beings a gift of Life. As the well-written final chapter of a great novel brings to completion a story worth reading, so death, our death (but also our dying), is given us by God to bring to completion a life worth living. What novel would be worth reading if it never found its conclusion? What life is worth living if it just goes on and on and on, never finding, or avoiding, its completion? This death is not the Enemy. That is why we as children were taught to “pray for a happy death”, by which in part was meant that we would be granted foreknowledge of our approaching death, so that we might live it, not endure it, making of our now completed life here a work of art. We were taught earnestly to pray for that privilege.
So, sometimes (John 11), Jesus would bring someone dead back to life, that He might prove to us, and by His effortlessness, that death is no Enemy of the God-Man – He mocks it by calling it sleep: “Our friend Lazarus is asleep” – so that we might trust His power to neutralize Death, something that only He could do.
THIRD POINT – In the bottom left of the painting we see the most famous way Christian painters, and especially Medieval and Renaissance ones – have symbolized human mortality – the human skull. Often a skull is painted into a painting of a Saint, showing him or her gazing thoughtfully at the skull – the Test of the Skull. We are meant to consider that real holiness in a person includes his or her acceptance of, not resistance to, his or her death. Why, then, do we not place the skulls or our parents on the mantle above the fireplace in our homes (!), so that we, contemplating their boney serenity, might learn what we need to know, what they now know for certain, what those Saints in the paintings knew? Why indeed.
1 Corinthians 15 – 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. 15 Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all. 
Do we not feel the profound spiritual disorder in us Americans when we indulge our fear of death – failing the Test of the Skull – and then excuse our fear of death as “natural”? During this time of world calamity that is COVID 19, when the fear of death is ablaze in so many of us, should we not consider ourselves in this ungoverned fear as “the most pitiable people of all”? St. Paul, in that quotation above, could not express in stronger terms the spiritual, but also the psychological and social, damage we sustain when we, at least in our emotions, let death remain our Enemy. As Rumi, with similar intensity said,
Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
SETTING A TASK FOR WEEK FIVE – In these weeks or months of “social distancing”, one place that we can be sure that few people will not congregate is at a Cemetery. If you have children whom you are still parenting, then take them to a Cemetery and let them tell you what they notice, what they wonder about. If you do not have children at all, or do not have children still under your care, then go alone to a Cemetery and open your heart and thoughts to God, asking for release from fear of death. Notice the significance of the beauty we lavish on Cemeteries, the care we take to preserve them in good order. Notice the stillness there – Quietness is the surest sign / that you have died. Feel what you feel as you read, stone by stone, the names of people who were loved and who loved, completing their time among us, whom we call “the living.” How is it that one skull can scare us, while a whole Cemetery inhabited by the Dead can leave us feeling moved, inspired, touched by a tenderness there among the Dead? In a Cemetery, death is not the Enemy. That is why it is important that we go there. Go there as your Lenten practice in this Fifth Week of Lent.
 The Benezit Dictionary of Artists (Oxford Online): Juan de Flandes (died before 16 December 1519) – “Juan de Flandes, Flemish, was a painter at the court of Isabella of Spain from 1496 to 1504…. He painted only in muted colours – mauves, pinks and blue greys – and his figures give the impression of being weightless. The suave delicacy and fragility of his art recall the work of Hugo van der Goes.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary etymology – The adjective and adverb “quiet” from quietus: “and its etymon classical Latin quiētus in a state of rest, asleep, inactive, making no noise, tranquil, undisturbed, free from war, at peace, free from agitation, (of the sea, atmosphere) free from storms, calm (e.g. quiēta statiō sheltered anchorage (Caesar).” When I speak to people who are beginning a silent Retreat, I make a distinction between being quiet (ceasing or refusing to make noise, to add to the total amount of noise already in the environment) and stillness (which is a spiritual event, the arrival of something, a sign of the power of the Holy Spirit expressing itself).
 Christian holy men who flourished in the West during the life of Rumi are, for example: St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1286), St. Albert the Great (c. 1200-1280), St. Bonaventure (1221-1274), St. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274).
 The association of “love” with “death” has deep roots in the New Testament (and in all of the great Religions and Paths). The common element is the death to self that the otherness of true love includes. For example, Galatians 2:20-21 – “I have been crucified with Christ; 20 yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” Another way of speaking of this kind of “death” is true love’s desire to love completely – the hope that eventually we might be blessed to be able to do that, to love someone, or Someone, as completely as God has loved us, Who loved us first.
 Many people want to know what love will ask of them before they actually love someone. Rumi says here that it doesn’t work that way. One must let oneself “enter the fire” of love, and to let oneself be taught from inside the experience of giving love and receiving love. We have the expression to “fall in (inside) love”, where “fall” here is what Rumi means by “die.” This theme of love being its own teacher shows up often in Rumi’s poetry. Rumi is speaking of the passions – loving passionately – but he does not mean irrational, lustful, disordered and disordering passions. If we are students of contemporary movies and TV shows, then we recognize how confused people are about the profound difference between the two.
 Death is the grey place, as the Oxford English Dictionary notes at “grey” or “gray” – “Designating the colour of ash, lead, flint, an overcast sky, etc., being intermediate between black and white, or composed of a mixture of black and white with little or no positive hue, or of a mixture of black and white with another colour (esp. blue or brown); of or having this colour.” Notice how richly color-full is the painting, the world into which Lazarus is awakened by Christ.
 The Moon is present to our sight in the night sky by reason of the light it “borrows” from the Sun, which is hidden from us at night. The Moon has nothing to “say” unless it is the moonlight that “says” that the Sun still exists, even though we, looking up at it, stand in darkness.
 Barks, Coleman (Translator). A Year with Rumi see March 22nd (p. 100). HarperOne. Kindle Edition. From the Introduction by Barks: “The story of Rumi’s life is well known. Born in the early thirteenth century into a lineage of scholars and mystics in Balkh (then at the eastern edge of the Persian empire, now in northern Afghanistan), he left as a boy with his family just ahead of the advancing armies of Genghis Khan. After several years of traveling they settled in Konya (south-central Turkey), where Rumi became the leader, after his father Bahauddin’s death, of a dervish learning community. His life and consciousness changed radically after the meeting in 1244 with his teacher and friend, Shams Tabriz, a wandering meditator of fiery force and originality. The inner work that Shams did with Rumi and Rumi with Shams produced the poetry. It springs from their friendship. See biography at: http://www.rumi.org.uk/life/.
* Cried out in a loud voice: a dramatization of Jn 5:28; “the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.”
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 11:43.
 The Oxford English Dictionary at “tattle-tale” – v. rare intransitive, “to tell tales or ‘sneak’ on (somebody).” Concerning these in this scene: 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. [New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 11:46.]
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the 15th century noun “resuscitation” – “The action of restoring a person to life after death; an instance of this.” But you catch the “going back” to a former, normal state in the meaning this noun has in Chemistry: “Restoration of metal, wood, etc., to its original state after it has been chemically altered (e.g. by burning); recovery of a pure substance from a mixture or compound.”
 John 11: 25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Is 55:3.
 Spending (sometimes wasting) years, or decades even, seeking what “fails to satisfy” is how we humans roll. At times we can feel shamed by our foolishness (we will never lack people willing to shame us). But the point is for us to recognize how our fundamental stance in life is as a student – life will always be educative if we do not let it keep us from learning through all of our experiences. From a completely different viewpoint about what “fails to satisfy”, we should recall that C.S. Lewis defines JOY this way: “It is the unsatisfied desire more desirable than any other satisfaction.”
 I received in July 2016 this quotation from Gary Uhlenkott, SJ – “There is a seriousness in the play of children, but even this is different, for the child is aware that it is only playing, and its seriousness is an indirect form of fun. But this seriousness becomes a vice in the adult, because he makes a religion of the game, so identifying himself with his part or position in life that he fears to lose it. This is especially so when the unenlightened man attains to any degree of responsibility; he develops a heaviness of touch, a lack of abandon, a stiffness which indicates that he is using his dignity as stilts to keep his head above adversity. His trouble is that instead of playing his part, his part plays him and makes him the laughingstock of all who see through his guise.” [Alan Watts. Become What You Are (p. 28). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.]
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 10:10.
 That essay begins: “I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The Sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.” [C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (HarperOne, 1994), 230.]
 C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (HarperOne, 1994), 231.
 Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings (Penguin Classics) (p. 33). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
 Notice that I did not say “enduring” our death (or our life). I said living our Death (which may seem a contradiction), which because of Christ, our Resurrected Lord, we can live it as one of the most wholehearted acts of a freely given life – to freely surrender our life, when He asks it of us, into His trustworthy hands.
 The closeness of this friendship Jesus had with Lazarus and his sister Mary is proven when we remember how on the day and night before Jesus entered into his Passion, he elected to stay at the house of Lazarus and Mary in Bethany. They must have been closest and most trusted friends for Jesus to have wanted to be with them at that point in His life. And when people who are so close to us die, we say, because it is true, that a part of us dies also.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 11:3.
 Fleming Rutledge. The Crucifixion (p. 405). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.
* Became perturbed: a startling phrase in Greek, literally, “He snorted in spirit,” perhaps in anger at the presence of evil (death).
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 11:33.
* The last enemy … is death: a parenthesis that specifies the final fulfillment of the two Old Testament texts just referred to, Ps 110:1 and Ps 8:7. Death is not just one cosmic power among many, but the ultimate effect of sin in the universe (cf. 1 Cor 15:56; Rom 5:12). Christ defeats death where it prevails, in our bodies. The destruction of the last enemy is concretely the “coming to life” (1 Cor 15:22) of “those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15:23).
m Rom 6:9; 2 Tm 1:10; Rev 20:14; 21:4.
* The one who subjected everything to him: the Father is the ultimate agent in the drama, and the final end of the process, to whom the Son and everything else is ordered (24, 28). That God may be all in all: his reign is a dynamic exercise of creative power, an outpouring of life and energy through the universe, with no further resistance. This is the supremely positive meaning of “subjection”: that God may fully be God.
n Ps 8:7; Eph 1:22; Phil 3:21.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), 1 Co 15:26–27.
 The Oxford English Dictionary at “malevolent” – Of a person, feeling, or action: “desirous of evil to others; entertaining, actuated by, or indicative of ill will; disposed or addicted to ill will.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary at “contrary” – “Opposed in nature or tendency; diametrically different, extremely unlike. Const. to; often with sense: Repugnant, antagonistic.”
 Recall here the chilling insight of Goethe’s Faust, in which a man becomes confused – because Mephistopheles, the Demon, delights so to confuse – believing that living longer (than anyone) and eternal life (in the way God means it) is the same thing!
 At History.com website – The Middle Ages, the medieval period of European history between the fall of the Roman Empire [476 CE] and the beginning of the Renaissance, are sometimes referred to as the “Dark Ages.”
 At History.com website – “The Renaissance was a fervent period of European cultural, artistic, political and economic “rebirth” following the Middle Ages. Generally described as taking place from the 14th century to the 17th century, the Renaissance promoted the rediscovery of classical philosophy, literature and art. Some of the greatest thinkers, authors, statesmen, scientists and artists in human history thrived during this era, while global exploration opened up new lands and cultures to European commerce. The Renaissance is credited with bridging the gap between the Middle Ages and modern-day civilization.”
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), 1 Co 15:13–19.
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