Sunday, April 7, 2013

Behind the Veil

Reagan recently celebrated her third Easter.  The Catholic Church recently elected a new pope.  I just finished a reread of The Great Gatsby in preparation for the May 10 release of Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of Fitzgerald's work.  All this has created a maelstrom of symbolism in my mind that may, or may well not, make sense as I attempt to work through it in this blog.  

I begin with a pictorial of Easter in the post-Reagan era . . .

Easter 2011:

 Easter 2012 (same headband & bow, a little more hair):

Easter 2013:

Reagan was treated to Easter in all its egg-dyeing, egg-hunting, candy-eating glory this year.  We dyed a few eggs at my parents' house the weekend before Easter . . .   

... and then held a few practice hunts in their yard to prepare for the Easter weekend showdown with Reagan's cousin, Marykate:

Pausing to take inventory:

Easter weekend was, of course, cold & rainy, so Reagan & Marykate hunted eggs Saturday in their Papaw's living room.  The carpet is some variation of green, so it worked.

That flash you see in the pic below is Marykate!

Easter Sunday we went through roughly three weather patterns from the time I dressed Reagan that morning until we returned from Easter lunch.  None of the weather patterns were ideal for photo ops (or my mood), so here's the best of the bunch from this year's Easter Sunday pics:

Reagan took these next two pictures of the spread at our table, complete with a package of her Boogie Wipes:

This was her dessert . . . 

. . . which she enjoyed after I photographed it & released it to her:

So, yeah, as I mentioned, symbolism.  It's been bearing down on me lately from all directions it seems.  Fitzgerald's use of symbols in Gatsby is masterful.  His prose is perfection, causing me to literally sit up in bed & gasp at points, reaching for my trusty highlighter & pen (though admittedly when I sit up in bed now you can hear a cacophony of grunts & moans anyway).  A sample . . . of his prose, not the grunts:

His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy's white face came up to his own.  He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God.  So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star.  Then he kissed her.  At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower, and the incarnation was complete.    
It's enough to make any writer throw down the pen, forever.

When I was in high school, I read Gatsby for the first time as a student in Mrs. Mary Dawson's honors English class.  I remember reading the final line of the book & thinking, 'Huh.  Ok, whatever.'  Admittedly, during the four years I was in high school, more than once I failed miserably to live up to the title, "Honors English Student."  I wish I could say that at fifteen, I had some inkling as to why this novel continues to receive the critical acclaim it does, but alas, I was remarkably blind to most everything that's wonderful about the novel.  This is of course ironic, given that the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, an optometrist who plastered his bespectacled face on a billboard, are a prominent symbol in the novel.   

Reagan & Henry, as you age, you'll likely hear the phrase, "Never judge a book by its cover."  You should also never judge a book from a first read, especially if you're under the age of twenty-five upon the initial reading.  Rereading any text multiple times is necessary if your goal is to peel away its layers & revel in its depth, & this is certainly true of the Bible.  You know who appreciates symbolism?  The Lord.

A month or so ago I watched & listened as the media speculated about the election of the next pope.  As all this unfolded, I was at times irritated by what I saw & heard, & not just because my soap was twice interrupted so Brian Williams could blather on about the color of the smoke coming from the Vatican.  A few verses from Matthew's gospel were rolling around in my head as this papal drama unfolded:

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom . . .   Matthew 27:50-51, NKJV
Aside from the awe inspiring visual of this literally happening, as I believe it did, this is laced with symbolism that Fitzgerald himself would have appreciated, had he ever put down the bottle his pen long enough to delve into the scriptures.  The blood of a perfect lamb was no longer needed to cleanse believers of their many sins; Christ became that lamb.  Priests, cloistered behind the temple curtain,  were no longer needed either, as Christ returned to the Father, where He sits, even as I type, making intercession for Christians.  The Hebrew writer explains this beautifully in chapter 7, verses 23-28:

Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.  But He, because he continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.  Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.  For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins and then for people's, for this He did once for all when he offered up Himself.  For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.

Humans are so often fascinated by the pageantry that accompanies an event like a papal election, but, in my opinion, the pageant has been over for two thousand years.  Since that time, the High Priest has been pleading with His Father on behalf of those who genuinely seek Him.  The renting of the temple veil was more than a father's reaction to his son's agonizing death; it was a physical symbol of the fact that Jesus' death ushered in a new covenant, one under which the perfect Lamb of God was sacrificed once for all, and no veil shrouds His face, the High Priest who died that day.

Note the first lines of the scripture above: ". . . there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.  But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood." 

As I sipped coffee & scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed Easter morning, I saw status after status that read, "He is risen."  Indeed, He was not, & will never be, prevented by death from fulfilling his role as High Priest because He defeated death, which is what the world pauses briefly to acknowledge once a year on Easter, but what Christians gather to commemorate every Sunday.  Christ's commandment in Luke 22 to, "do this in remembrance of Me," is not a directive to institute the commercialized holidays of Christmas & Easter.  Hunting eggs is fun.  The Easter Bunny's visit is something nice to sustain kids during the long months between Christmases.  However, the fact that we serve a risen Lord, that we have a High Priest who will never die, never resign His position, leaving the office vacant, is far too valuable a piece of knowledge to only shout about it once a year on Easter.  I wasn't at all bothered that I repeatedly read, "He is risen," last Sunday; I wish my Facebook feed was filled with that sentiment every Sunday morning.    

A bit preachy, I realize.  There was a moment while listening to Brian Williams speculate about the politics of a papal selection that I snapped.  It's my fault, really, as I should know not to listen to NBC's coverage of any election, papal or otherwise.  I feel better now.  I hope everyone had a Happy Easter, & that you awoke today with unbridled joy knowing that, as was the case last Sunday morning, He is risen.    


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