The following is an excerpt from The Season After Easter – A Magnificent Eucatastrophe!
“A eucatastrope, said Tolkien, is “the joy in a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth.” Quite simply, a good ending not expected. Surely, to the frightened apostles on Good Friday, this was the meaning of the resurrection, and likewise for us, the “good ending unexpected” of Easter ought not be shut away as one might save a basket for next year.
To know the joy of the resurrection, we must hold fast to the significance of Christ’s death beyond the weeks we recite the stations of the cross. Christ’s death is not mere historical fact — the tale of an heroically good man standing up to the injustices of the world and being crushed for his trouble. This is a compelling and instructive story line, but it is also an incomplete accounting of the faith.
To say that Jesus died because those in power ordered him killed does not reveal the great truth of his death. We come closer when we say that Jesus died for our sins and in fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation. But even this falls short either because it is too glib or because it leaves us baffled how any father, let alone Our Father, would give a son over to the profound suffering of the crucifixion. What’s more, our own mind revolts at the notion of an innocent man being punished for the transgressions of others.
Tolkein’s contemporary and friend, C.S. Lewis, reminds us in “Mere Christianity” that Jesus was not being punished in a retributive sense, but in the sense of generously paying a debt or footing a bill – our bill. The debt we incur each time we assert that we belong to ourselves.
This rebellion of spirit of course began with Adam and Eve, but it continues for each of us in every act of selfishness or self will. Our self-conceit is all the worse because it is made in the face of the infinite abundance of God’s gift of life and creation to which we have no entitlement. All humanity was greatly “in the hole,” as Lewis would say, with no way out.
The debt that Jesus assumed for us was frankly beyond our capacities to fulfill. And if we think about it, were it not for the incarnation, beyond God’s. It was not in God’s Divine nature to spurn, as we spurned, unmerited gifts of love. He could do it only by assuming our nature and then by dying unto it. Only then would the debt be repaid.
So in these days after Easter, let us not understate the significance of passion, death, and resurrection. Most of all, let us not run up a new debt. We do that by putting undo emphasis upon the next success in material things; we do that when we constantly demand to be entertained, rather than accepting the day for what it brings or taking time to find the peace of prayer or the spiritual refreshment of simply being of comfort to others; we do that when we presume we can make do without the help of others; and most of all, we do that when we extend our love only on condition.
The Easter season continues. It does not end on Easter Sunday. It is a eucatastrope! The resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the incarnation. A story in Christ Jesus that, as Tolkien observed, begins and ends with joy, if we open ourselves to it.