Nightly rehearsal for resurrection

There’s this Jewish prayer I like very much called the Hashkiveinu.

Here’s the text of it:

Lie us down to peace, Adonai our God, and raise us up to life, our king (protector), and spread over us the shelter of your peace, and direct us with good advice before You, and save us for the sake of your name, and look out for us, and keep enemies, plagues swords, famines, and troubles from our midst, and remove Satan from in front of us and from behind us, and cradle us in the shadow of your wings, for You are God who guards us and saves us, for You are God. Our gracious and merciful king (protector). Guard our departure and our arrival to life and to peace, from now and ever more.

Isn’t it remarkable to contemplate being “raised up to life” before falling asleep?

Yes, there is the hope in being raised to “this same life” the following morning. But the prayer is also evocative of being raised to everlasting life. As sleep seems to be a death but actually leads to a new day, so death seems to be an end but leads to resurrection.

Photo: First or second century Jewish tomb at Emmaus in Israel

The Valley of the Dry Bones: Genocide and Resurrection

This is a throwback post to my Reflections on Rwanda Genocide Study Trip in May 2012

In May 2012, I travelled on the Reflections on Rwanda program, a two-week trip for Canadian students to visit the Republic of Rwanda and study the genocide that occurred there in 1994. The purpose for studying genocide is to gain insight into human nature through studying the extremes in human action. Listening to the stories of rescuers and survivors prompts me to study the virtues required to affirm the sanctity of human persons.

Confronting profound evil is a difficult experience that challenges my faith. We toured dozens of memorial sites throughout the country. Many of these sites were former churches where people had fled seeking refuge and peace. At each site, we saw hundreds of skulls and bones of victims. Looking at those skulls and bones, I thought about my own skull and my own bones. I thought about how these bones and skulls fall short of truly representing the victims. What the skulls and bones do emphasize is equality, but what they deemphasize is individuality. When I observed a display with rosaries and identity cards among the skulls, it made me think about the dynamism of the life that once animated those bodies that were so violently destroyed.

Continue reading

Resurrection of the dead indicates what our bodies are for

In this excellent clip 6-minute clip, Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak Breitowitz explains why the resurrection of the body is an important belief for understanding what it means to be embodied persons.

His main argument is that it is fitting for our bodies, which are the means by which we may perfect our souls through good deeds, to partake of the ultimate reward and communion.

Resurrection, explains Breitowitz, restores the true unity of the person as an image of God who is also One.


Take a look:

Mysterious Reminders

My mother sent me the snap accompanying this post of a page from a booklet she received when she went to hear the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah.

I was curious to look up these various symbolic interpretations of the significance of the shofar. This list was devised by a rabbi from the late ninth-to-early tenth century.

I had heard Rabbi Jonathan Sacks recall how Maimonides considered the shofar as “God’s Alarm Clock“, but I had never before heard about the connection between the sounding of the shofar as a reminder of the resurrection of the dead.

Eliyahu Kitov’s article says, “The sounding of the shofar serves to remind us of the resurrection of the dead, as the verse [Isaiah 18:3] states: All those inhabitants of the world and those who dwell in the earth, when a sign is lifted upon the mountains you shall see and when the shofar is sounded you shall hear.”

I went and tried to read that chapter of Isaiah in context and I could not really figure out what it had to do with the resurrection of the dead.

I also tried to find other Jewish sources speaking to the importance of being reminded about resurrection on Rosh Hashanah and I didn’t really find anything.

The shofar can only be the spiritual wake-up call it’s meant to be if it’s understood what exactly we are being awoken to and for.

What difference would it make if we were reminded, even annually, to think about resurrection?

“I know that he will rise again…”

On the Feast Day of St. Martha, I am thinking about what I consider to be one of the most intriguing sentences in the New Testament – “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:24)

This statement demonstrates the forcefulness and solidity of Jewish belief in an eventual resurrection of the dead.

Another pertinent section is 1 Corinthians 15 in which St. Paul discusses the importance of Christ having been raised from the dead saying, “If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.” (1. Cor. 15:14)

Continue reading

Initial hypothesis about resurrection

After nearly 200 days of blogging about death every day, where is this leading?

I find myself becoming fascinated and absorbed by the topic of the resurrection of the dead.

As a friend remarked to me the other day, this is one of the most fundamental beliefs underlying our civilization and yet, it is a teaching about which most people are, if they are being honest about it, rather incredulous or indifferent.

My very preliminary hypothesis is that belief in resurrection is subliminally decisive to how we live and that it has wide-ranging implications in ethics, technology, and culture.

To play with these ideas, we can ask: What difference does it make whether or not we believe in a resurrection of the dead? What are the practical consequences in our lives of its possibility or impossibility?

Another question: If people believed in the resurrection of the body, what would it change in our public bioethics?

I do not yet have many answers to propose. However, my first intuition is that the precariousness of our embodiedness needs redemption.

Whether this redemption is possible and whether we stake (or mistake) our hope about it in the correct place is, I think, a more interesting and practical question than many realize.

The Longest Line to See Nothing

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is a place to which thousands of pilgrims flock every day to see what isn’t there.

It is quite amusing, in fact, to wait in line for hours in order to see a place that you know to be empty.

Life is filled with a great many paradoxes. It is a paradox that the cross, which was an instrument of torture, became an instrument of divine reconciliation and the most enduring symbol of Christian faith. It is a paradox that the empty tomb became the sign of the fullness of Christian hope – that we “will not all die, but we will all be changed” and that “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

Continue reading

If You Can Tell A Story

Is it really possible to blog about death in a way that is consistently uplifting and enlivening every single day of the year?

It’s certainly a challenge.

And is it possible to tell edifying stories about the difficult, messy, and painful realities of life with grit and sincerity?

Not only is it possible. It’s vitally necessary.

Continue reading

Resting in Abraham’s Bosom

Thomas Aquinas died on this date 747 years ago. Accordingly, I decided to see what came up first with a quick search about Aquinas on death. I was led to the Summa Theologiae and, specifically, to Question 69 on “Matters concerning the resurrection, and first of the place where souls are after death.”

During his lifetime, Thomas Aquinas considered many questions that most people would never consider at all. Take, for example, Article 4 of Question 69 in which he asks: “Whether the limbo of hell is the same as Abraham’s bosom?”

I had not heard (or didn’t particularly recall hearing) of “Abraham’s bosom” but a detailed Wikipedia article discusses the concept as it appears in the Bible, Jewish and Christian history, and religious art and literature.

Continue reading