As I ran along the banks of the Schuylkill river, I thought to myself: what are the mechanics of Resurrection?
How exactly does a human being pass from this world into the next? And, by "next world", I mean union with God, which is a reality we all experience in the day-to-day. We all experience something of this participation in the life of the Trinity.
And yet, those souls who are no longer enfleshed in human bodies. They have passed away from this world. This world, with its riots and noise; with its endless movement and break-neck speed. They have passed beyond this world. Into what? Where have they gone, exactly?
They are experiencing the fullness of Joy in heaven, of course. Final, total participation with God. In time or out of it? If they are already in heaven, they have shuffled off the coil of the human clock. They are no longer bound by time. So where are they now? As in, this moment I am experiencing as I type. This moment I experience as I run along the banks of the river, as I stare at the mausoleums crouched upon the hill, this moment: now. Where are they?
They must be, I suppose, beyond this moment. For in this moment, that I am experiencing, they are not here. Their bodies are rotting under the pristine stones on the hill. Their bodies are not a part of the beatific vision they are enjoying. In the great dance, their bodies are still wallflowers, waiting to be brought into the center of the rhythm. They lie dormant, still slumbering, waiting.
But, in the eternal moment the dead are experiencing now, have they lept forward--Benedict's ontological leap--into eternity? Have their bodies now joined them, so that they have passed through the last things already, their bodies and souls united in celebrating the Joy of the Trinity? Have they already experienced the entire fable of humanity, culminating in the eschaton, and their mortal bodies being reborn into a dazzling new creation?
Perhaps they are, somehow, now in the true present. They are living in what is Really Happening. We are still in the past, and trying to reach them. We are lagging behind them; with each tick of the clock, we are struggling towards them; towards reality; toward the eternal moment.
They have passed, with Christ, through the mysterious barrier of death, and now enjoy life--life in abundance, that we are daily working towards.
I think of all of this as I run past the cemetery on Laurel Hill. And I think: no wonder Resurrection has caused such a ruckus in the physical world. Once the gates of heaven had opened to admit the first human body, did not all of history shift, mysteriously? Time itself has been re-done.
I watch my hands write, the ink fall onto the paper, I watch my students at work, the commuters on the subway. Who are we? We mysterious beings caught in the past, living our way into the future present. We are caught in the tension of time and the end of time; death, which means the beginning of something else. Tenses are muddled together now, blurred like the grey sky and the raindrops falling down the glass that is my window.