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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Exult! Let them Exult! - The Resurrection and a New Kind of King


Exult! Let them Exult!

Our Easter season now lasts until Pentecost, and is a time when we as Christians continue to celebrate the joy that was so beautifully expressed in the Exsultet.  This hymn, which dates to between the 5th-7th centuries, is sung only once a year at the Easter Vigil.  It is usually sung without instrumentation, and it usually takes a cantor 9-12 minutes to sing.  It is sung while the church is in total darkness save for the newly lit paschal candle and for the candles of the faithful, all of whom share the fire and new light of the paschal candle.  Here's what the Exsultet sounds like:



The Exsultet is a profound poem of joy, theologically rich and complex.  It seems only fitting to spend some time with this hymn, to meditate on it, as we continue our 50-day celebration of Easter.

The first stanza reads as follows:

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

What strikes me immediately are the two references in this stanza to Jesus Christ as ‘King.’  This notion of Jesus as ‘King’ is one we’ve encountered a number of times in the readings over the past week.  On Palm Sunday we celebrated Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem as a king.  On Good Friday we heard the entire passion narrative of John, which contains the rather cryptic dialogue between Jesus and Pilate where Jesus talks about himself as a king.  And we heard as well that Jesus was ‘crowned’ by his persecutors with a crown of thorns to mock his self-professed kingship, and that over Jesus’ head on the cross were written the words, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’

And now, in the Exsultet, we praise ‘our mighty King’s triumph.’

This imagery of ‘kingship’ indicates that there are political implications to Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We are not talking about Jesus as king in a metaphorical sense.  Jesus is truly ‘King.’  But what we see in this idea of Jesus as ‘King’ is a redefining of the political, a revising of what it means to be political.

In Jesus we see kingship modeled as utterly selfless love.  Jesus’ kingship is not one that revolves around power, but is one that manifests itself as a servant washing his disciples’ feet.  It manifests itself as one willingly going to death like a lamb to the slaughter rather than one who is willing to use force.  It manifests itself by being raised onto a cross rather than onto a throne.

The triumph of our ‘mighty King’ to which the Exsultet refers is the triumph of selfless love over the violence of the political.  The new life made possible by the Resurrection is not only the life that triumphs over death.  It is a new life insofar as it is a new way of being in the world, one modeled for us by the selfless King who consistently chose servanthood over power.

This is a radically new way of being.  But it is even more a radically new way of being political.  Now, when churches in this nation seem to understand being political only in terms of the nation-state, we are confronted by a radically different ‘Kingdom’ inaugurated by our triumphant ‘King.’  This is a kingdom that, as Jesus said to Pilate, is not from this world.  This is a kingdom that operates in an entirely different way in the here and now.  It is one where the first are last and the last are first.  It is one marked by selfless love for all within and without the church.

The Resurrection is, among other things, a call to be radically different.  It is a call to follow a new ‘King’ whose kingdom quite literally threatens all that most people, including ourselves, hold to be most important.  It is a call to be a political community - to be the Kingdom of God on earth - insofar as we as local communities within the Church become communities that truly demonstrate and be the selfless love that is God as manifested by Jesus Christ.  It means being radical communities that demonstrate to those around us an entirely other way of being together, of living together, of loving together.

What we cannot lose sight of as we praise Jesus' triumph as King is that he was, and through the Resurrection is, a truly radical King.

Icon of the resurrection from http://www.greek-icons.org

This post is excerpted from an earlier post published on April 9, 2012

3 comments:

  1. These are the secrets of the "Kingdom of God" taught and demonstrated by Saint Jesus while he was alive.

    The Divine is not, nor ever was, nor ever will be the Ruler of the "world" - because the Divine is not on the outside of the world (or of anyone in the world). The Divine must be understood to BE at the inside of the world (and at the inside of everyone in the world). Therefore, the Divine is not to be sought outside (or as some Rule or Ruler of the world).
    Rather the Divine must be accepted as the Ruler of the heart, and the mind, and the body - such that the selfish heart, and mind, and body ceases to be the False Ruler of the heart, and the mind, and the body, and the active life of the human individual.

    The "Kingdom of God" is neither in nor of the world - but the "Kingdom of God" is, or must be established, within the heart, and the mind, and the body, and the active life of every human individual. This practical moral and devotional teaching about right life is the first of the secrets of the "Kingdom of God" taught by Saint Jesus. And it was this secret that Saint Jesus made the basis of his outer, or public teaching work.

    The second of the secrets about the "Kingdom of God" taught by Saint Jesus is the SPIRITUAL teaching about how to establish the "Kingdom" within the heart, and the mind, and the body by means of psycho-physical self-surrender of heart, and mind, and body into Communion with the Divine Spirit-Breath.

    By means of the comprehensive psycho-physical practice of this Spiritual secret, the worshippers of God, or the Indivisible Divine Spiritual Reality, were to worship, or BECOME Communion with, God in, or by means of, Spirit and in, or not separate from Truth.
    Thus worshipping in the Spirit-Breathing manner of their Spiritual Master Jesus, disciples were to constantly and inwardly with full concentration of heart, and mind, and body, "Ascend" into the "Kingdom", or Absolute Condition of the Light of the world - or the Indivisible and Self-Illuminated Divine Spiritual Fullness That Shines Eternally Above the heart, and the mind, and the body of every human being.

    This Spiritual teaching, or the second of the secrets of the "Kingdom of God" taught by Saint Jesus, was not openly declared by him in the outer or public domain of his teaching work. But it was, instead, reserved by him, to be communicated only under the special circumstances of his inner circle (or esoteric domain) of fully prepared people, who had already adapted to the principles of right life indicated by Saint Jesus in the public work associated with his teaching of the first secret of the "Kingdom of God".

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  2. While he was alive Saint Jesus was talking and teaching about the process of Realizing freedom by means of self-transcending Divine Communion. For Jesus, freedom was about liberation from bondage to the suffering and humiliating mortality of this world.
    Jesus was not in any sense talking about making an institution that would become the "official" religion of the world. Nor was he talking about a "God" that should become the "official" Deity of the world. In his life and teaching demonstration Saint Jesus had none of the characteristics of a merely exoteric religious, and, necessarily, also political figure.

    The people whom Saint Jesus was addressing were all humble suffering human beings who were often ill, and deprived - regardless of their worldly status in the human social and political hierarchy. Jesus was simply, by nature, sympathetic and compassionate. He extended his Blessing-Regard to all.

    Saint Jesus felt a profound disposition of compassion for people in their ordinary, natural, human condition regardless of their social or political status. Jesus stepped out of the spheres of both the power of the State and the institutional power of the "official" religion - and, basically, he taught everyone else to do the same.

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  3. You dont really think that the Catholic church became THE world dominant religion because its adherents practiced self-transcending love, either individually and collectively!

    It became so via the blood-soaked business end of Constantine's famous sword. And cannons, maxim guns etc etc.
    This one stark image portrays how the process of world conquest really happened.
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~spanmod/mural/panel13.html


    There are now more Catholics in the world than ever before, both in total numbers and as a percentage of the total human population.
    There is now more Catholic propaganda of all kinds than ever before, both in print and electronic forms (especially TV radio and the internet) There are now more Catholic churches than ever before. More Catholic schools and universities too. All of which is to say that the Catholic church runs the worlds largest "privately" own propaganda machine.

    Furthermore Catholic clergy, from the Pope right on down to the local parish priest are members of the cultural elite in which ever city or town they live. And of course Cardinals are called "Prince's" of the church.

    By some estimates the Catholic church is collectively the worlds third largest property owner, and the fifth largest business corporation. It IS PRIMARILY a business corporation which is always seeking to expand its market share in the market place of whats-in-it-for-me consumerist religion.

    Meanwhile perhaps you have noticed that the world is becoming more and more insane every day.

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