Outside of the Box
National Portrait Gallery; Copyright Smithsonian Institution
Prior to the advent of the automobile, the sound of horseís hoofs would have the familiarity of that of passing car engines today. One might be able to guess the occupation of the owner and the purpose of the horseís journey by the speed and the heaviness of the great beastís gait. The solemn clopping of horses towing a hearse must have been the least desired sound of all. Try to imagine it. In this case, the mournful vision of the funeral carriage was occasioned by the death of Charles Webster, the young son of the statesman and father of the first American dictionary, Daniel Webster. In nineteenth century America, too often families had to suffer the loss of a child. From his poem On the Death of My Son Charles, Daniel Webster vividly expressed not only the grief that weighed him down, but also the faith that buoyed him up:
Sweet Seraph, I would learn of thee,
And hasten to partake thy bliss!
And Oh! To thy world welcome me,
As first I welcomed thee to this.
Dear Angel thou art safe in heaven;
No prayers for thee need more be made;
Oh! Let thy prayers for those be given
Who oft have blessed thy infant head.
My father! I beheld thee born,
And led thy tottering steps with care;
Before me risen to Heavenís bright morn,
My Son! My Father! Guide me there.
This tender and elegant statement of a fatherís love and the Easter faith he depended on touches oneís heart. Through faith and hope in the risen Lord, the bitter end of mortal existence is sweetened by the certain belief that one may bid farewell to a loved one and entrust the soul of the departed to the One who gave that treasured soul life. This truth reaches to the very essence of the Christian gospel. The gift of eternal life emerging from the mutual love between God and his faithful people proclaims that Christians think outside of the box.
What is this ďboxĒ anyway? One could describe it as cautioned reasoning, sensible action, standard operating procedures, or accepted methodologies. All that can be named real and true must reside within the boundaries of the box. If one is thoughtful, one may have marked misgivings over a system claiming that all truth emits from the self. Pondering this philosophical view, truth and reality exist only within the arena of human reasoning and verifiability and, thus, all that cannot be subjected to this process is rendered fanciful or irrelevant. This above all: the human being is the center of the universe and the author of all truth and meaning. Oneís very being has been placed tightly within the box.
The Catholic faithful and all other authentic Christian believers hold to an understanding of truth, reality, human dignity, and the purpose of life that absolutely burst through the limitations of the box. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Easter event, is the supreme example of that ďjail break.Ē Freedom from the box does not deny the importance and value of human reason and sensibility but encompasses them as part of the divine environment of human life. If anything, the human desire to learn, to understand, and, yes, to have power over nature reflects an innate tendency toward God. A core belief is that humanity has been fashioned in the likeness of God. A revelation of that likeness is the human drive to recognize and pursue the panoply of possibilities that rest in the human mind and heart and soul.
Easter establishes the foundation of all human hope and the affirmation that life is truly a worthwhile experience. Scripture asserts that nothing in the universe can separate us from the love of God. The only power to tear apart the eternal covenant of Godís faithfulness resides is the very object of Godís love and mercy – the human being.
I pray that this Easter confirms the movement of the Spirit in us all. Letís not put ourselves in a box, but rejoice in how the love of Christ defines who we are and what we can become.