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Rolling the Stone Away: Easter & Science Fiction

“God invites us to be co-creators, to help transform our world and bring about new life.”

–The Reverend Mary Luck Stanley

As a world, we are suffering in many ways: a plane crashed in France, killing more than a hundred people; war continues to rage in the Middle East; Ebola continues to take lives in Liberia; women across the globe are still treated as second-class citizens (and often much worse); our prisons continue to fill and fill with more people each day; people all over the world still face prejudice for their skin color, religion, sexual orientation, and any other differences one can find to hold against them—but these are not the entirety of our world. These do not have to define our world.

Nothing is fixed.

It’s the desire to celebrate this fact—Nothing is fixed; everything can change; everything can be reimagined—that always excites me about the Easter holiday. Easter speaks directly to the author and artist in me as a time to recognize the radical transformation that’s possible in all of us. As a professional writer, there are few things I find more inspiring or important than this: that the radical transformation of our world is possible, no matter how engrained or “natural” our current systems and oppressive forces may seem.

And it’s for this same reason that I’ve always been particularly drawn to science fiction as both a reader and writer. Science fiction is unique among all genres because it’s dedicated not to the imagining of different worlds and systems, but to the reimagining of our current ones. It’s a genre focused on remembering that the power of transformation and change rests with us of the here and now, that these dreams are real and that nothing is fixed. Homophobia? Prisons? Racism? Sexism? Nothing is fixed. We have the tools, ability, and imagination to see these evils ended.

And isn’t this Christ’s Easter example to us?—to radically transform the world through love. To reimagine our world as run by the rules of love.

As renowned science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin said in her acceptance speech as Medalist for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (2014 National Book Awards ceremony):

“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of [people] who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need [people] who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.”

The celebration, possibility, and truth of this “larger reality” is a major part of what Easter has come to mean for me—to remember that I live in a world where a man rose from the dead, where a man was willing to suffer anything to pursue a better world for us all, and that we also have this power to drive change and pursue worlds that don’t yet exist, worlds that others may call impossible. We have the ability to be Realists of a Larger Reality.

Perhaps Nerds of Color contributor Walidah Imarisha put it best:

“When we free our imaginations, we question everything. We recognize none of this is fixed, everything is stardust, and we have the strength to cast it however we will.” (emphasis added)

Nothing is fixed. The stone was rolled away from Christ’s tomb, and we have the power still to roll all the other stones away.

trees

–Katherine Mead-Brewer

*In Le Guin’s above quote, I changed the word “writers” to “people,” as indicated by the [brackets].

Celebrating Wisdom & St. Cyril of Jerusalem

“The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden for God is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as the Spirit approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, and to console.”

—St. Cyril of Jerusalem

In Greek Orthodox services, priests often punctuate their actions with the (sung) declaration:

This is wisdom; let us be attentive.

And while I’ve never been Greek Orthodox myself, this phrase has always struck me as something at once tremendously useful and profound. After all, it isn’t often when Wisdom is pinpointed and called out for us in everyday life.

_DSC2738Last Wednesday evening (3/18), my husband, Evan, and I joined fellow Old St. Paul’s member Steve Tollefson to participate in a celebration of The Feast of St. Cyril of Jerusalem at The Church of the Redemption (led by The Reverend Jim Perra, former member of Old St. Paul’s). And, reflecting back on it now, I feel as though the entire night could’ve been punctuated with a great big exclamation point: THIS IS WISDOM; LET US BE ATTENTIVE. I’m not normally one who keeps quiet in a conversation, but in this group, I found that all I wanted to do was be attentive and listen.

First, we learned some of the history of St. Cyril, born in Jerusalem around 315 and made bishop of Jerusalem in (approx.) 349. As the bishop of Jerusalem, Cyril had a particular influence on the early liturgical forms of Holy Week for Christians, as thousands of believers made their annual pilgrimage there. Because of this and how those believers then returned home to spread news and practice of these liturgical forms, many of these decisions and practices continue on as our Christian inheritance today (such as the palms of Palm Sunday, for example). Cyril also had an important hand in helping to shape and vote on our Nicene Creed.

This history led us into a terrific discussion regarding not only the Nicene Creed but the possibilities and beauties of other Christian creeds, including one I’d never heard of before: the Maasai Creed.

The Maasai Creed is a creed [that was] composed in about 1960 by Western Christian missionaries for the Maasai, an indigenous African tribe of semi-nomadic people located primarily in Kenya and northern Tanzania. The creed attempts to express the essentials of the Christian faith within the Maasai culture.

–On Being, “The Maasai Creed,” Jaroslav Pelikan

And there’s a lot to appreciate about the Maasai Creed. For example, consider the phrase: “We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing that the meaning of religion is love.”

One of my personal favorite elements, however, is the line: “live the rules of love,” as in, “All who have faith in him [Christ] must…live the rules of love….”

This is wisdom. Let us be attentive.

It makes me wonder, if we were to create a creed that “attempted to express the essentials of the Christian faith within the [Baltimore] culture,” what would it look like?

—Katherine Mead-Brewer

_DSC2492_edited-1**A great big Thank You to The Church of the Redemption, Steve Tollefson, and to The Reverend Jim Perra. And a special thanks to 4th Century Spanish nun, Egeria, without whose journal we would not know near as much regarding the practices of those original liturgical Holy Week practices as we do today.

Holy Hospitality!

lynn at easter

My grandparents were true Depression Era citizens, and both Mom-mom and Pop-pop told me many stories about how hard it was to find what you needed during that time.  Pop-pop was out of work, and Mom-mom worked as a bobbin winder at The Linen Thread; she stood for ten to twelve hours a day in front of a machine and she was glad to have the work. My mother was only eight years old when she and her brother started walking the railroad tracks for coal dropped from the open-topped cars to supplement the wood Pop-pop chopped from his own five acre farm.

My mother is now eighty-three years old, and she still talks about how she and her brother and her parents worked the five acres with the help of their neighbors, and how Mom-mom and Pop-pop were famous for their canned fruits and vegetables, and how, at the end of the Harvest, there was always a huge outdoor celebration that featured a sit-down barbeque for over a hundred people.

Pop-pop stood at the front of the line of homemade picnic tables and always made the same speech, year after year. He thanked God for the beauty and bounty of the land, he thanked Herbert Hoover (and then Roosevelt) for the freedom of the USA, he thanked his neighbors for their help on his farm, and he thanked his family for putting up with him. At which point Mom-mom would chime in, “Amen!” and the food would be passed.

Mom-mom and Pop-pop’s generosity to all was well-established by the time my sister, brother, and I arrived. Every Sunday she would stop on the way out of church to ask the pastor about the local families:

“How is Miss Ann doing?”

“Did Mrs. McGraul have her baby?”

“Did Big Jim find work yet?”

As her workweek progressed, she remembered those talks with the pastor on the marble steps of the church and, after dinner each night, she would gather canned foods from her pantry, add a loaf of her homemade bread, a fresh-baked chicken, and a bag of her (justifiably) famous sugar cookies, and then we would take a walk. My sister, brother, and I would sit on Miss Ann’s porch and talk with her about our little adventures while Mom-mom went into the kitchen to put away the food she had brought.

Miss Ann, Mrs. McGraul, Big Jim, and all of Mom-mom’s other neighbors were always so grateful for her kindness, and would thank her over and over. She always responded, “God gave me a great gift with this life, and I want to return the favor.”

Mom-mom and Pop-pop are long gone now, but their hospitality and generosity live in my memory every time I set a tray of doughnuts out for the congregation on Sunday.For me, the talking and the laughing and the hugs that circulate around the hospitality tables at the back of Old St. Paul’s after the service (punctuated by a lot of Thank you so much, Lynn!) is a secular echo of the Eucharist that we all share.

Church Lynn-1 (2)

The Holy Hospitality of the Eucharist is accepted quietly and spiritually – the doughnuts, coffee, fruit, and homemade treats are shared as a banquet of friendship and community among the congregation, and now is the time for talk!

Church John-2 (2)

Chuck HospitalityConversation flourishes among the congregation as the children play in the aisles: future plans to get together are made, confidences are shared, and current issues are discussed. Old St. Paul’s is God’s House and this is a happy time.

As I always say, “Things go better with food!” I know Mom-mom and Pop-pop would agree.

–Lynn Calvarese