Monday, April 17, 2006

Three Days

That's how long Christ lay in the tomb.

Sacred scripture and the constant tradition of the Church declare it so. Jesus Christ dies on that first good Friday, and he's buried before sunset of the Sabbath, a Saturday. He remains among the dead all day Saturday. Before the dawn of the first day of the week, He rises!

That's three days.

And three days has a very significant meaning in scripture.

Peter denies Christ three times before the cock crows.
Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him.
Jesus fell three times while he carried his cross.

Three, of course, represents more than simply the numeric value between two and four. Three represents significance. Three means many. That's encouraging.

After all, Jesus lay in the tomb for three days.

"That's encouraging?" you may ask, "How is dwelling on mysteries celebrated by the Triduum encouraging after Easter, Holy Fool?"

It's encouraging because many of us have waited in the tomb a long time. We look forward to the day of our ressurection. We desperately need to know that it will come. Jesus assures us through his death that it will.

He particularly assures us when he remains among the dead for three days.

This Easter, we celebrate the ressurection of the Lord. We ponder the most sacred mystery of our Faith not for one day only, but for a season of fifty days! Yes, we shout with joy to the God who saves us through his suffering, death and ressurection.

But we still live in a fallen world. We still suffer those "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." We live for the truth and pay for it. We suffer, we fall into the darkness of our own personal tombs. We wait for the Ressurection.

Sometimes, we wait a long time.

My Blushing Bride and I know what that's like. To shamelessly steal from Langton Hughs, our life "ain't been no crystal stairs." We have tasted the ruin of our burnt dreams. We've shuddered to think about how we'll make the next mortgage payment. We've stumbled under the onslaught of life's struggles more times than I can count. Or should I say three times?
I once thought I understood the course of my life. I believed I would teach for a suburban school system and eventually transfer into a position I had dreamed of. I would work on the award-winning team that had once taught my own younger brother in High School. At night and on vacations, I would write the novels that would put my name on the literary map for all time.

Then my opportunity came. The high school that hosted the award-winning team offered me a team-teaching position. It wasn't part of the team, but once in the door, a transfer couldn't be far away, right. I met the administration--and something didn't feel right. I met one of my co-teachers--and something definately didn't feel right.

I ignored my feelings. Not my wisest decision.

I spent the next year coping with my administration's hypocrisy. They had told me that they wanted a "collaborative team-teaching process" in which subject-area teachers and special education teachers combined their disciplines to plan curricula and lessons that benefitted an integrated class. When I arrived, I found out their idea of a collaborative process was to do whatever the subject-area teacher told me. Even if what they told me contradicted my special need students' best interests.

It was their classroom.

My team-teaching partner took full advantage. Not enamored with collaboration at all, she took every opportunity to seize control of classroom planning and instruction. Her constant destructive criticism bombarded me with a Tsunami of negativity, which I, unfortunately, took to heart. I allowed her judgements to become the standards by which I evaluated my own performance. I spent a year living in doubt, trying to please a colleague that couldn't be pleased.

Things got worst. I botched up two projects with another colleague on account of my hopeless overcompensation. Oh, and that Assistant Principal in whom I had misgivings? He justified my intuition by not helping me when I needed it.

By February of that first year, I could not wait to leave. Then, on the day before I was to attend my uncle's Funeral, my principal called a conference. I attended with my UFT representative, and she informed me that the school and I "weren't a good fit."

I couldn't have agreed more.

In exchange for a guarantee that they would pay me unemployment, I agreed to tender my resignation. She could save face with the school board; I wouldn't have to explain a dismissal on my resume.

I worked the rest of that academic year knowing I would be out of work in June. My dream of working for the dream team died right along with my future in that high school.

Oh, and did I happen to mention that this was the first year of my marriage? Did I explain how I spent my fourteen-hour days, seven per week? Did I forget to mention how I couldn't take my Blushing Bride out for our first Valentin's Day?

Yes, it was that kind of year.

It would continue. The summer passed quickly. The resumes I had sent out after hard hours of research in a new field yielded nothing.

Then 9/11/2001 came.

I watched the second plane hit the south tower. I watched them fall. I sat in front of the tube, tears running down my cheeks. My nation endured the worst terrorist attack in her history; I was a helpless, unemployed citizen incapable of doing anything about it.

Including secure new employment. No company showed any interest in helping an unemployed teacher become a pharmaceutical or education sales representative. Big surprise, right? Anyways, the phone remained silent.

Meanwhile, the Blushing Bride, who had substitute taught to bring in extra money, became the virtual sole bread winner. Sure, I had my unemployment benefit; it wasn't nearly enough.

By January, that benefit came to an end. I had no choice but to return to teaching. I had no position left to turn to except the one from which I had come. I returned to the City.

Thus, I've remained. I work in the dysfunctional system that I had hoped I'd left behind. The commute, the stress, the red tape entanglements: how much do I have in the tank when I come home?
Yes, we've faced our struggles. We've suffered. We've been in the tomb. Professional disappointment, personal anxiety; we've faced loss at every turn. We still do. Real Estate has still been bad. My mother has had her health issues. Our mother-daughter home, purchased with my parents as the tenants, hasn't missed an opportunity to plague us with some complicated disaster to fix. The bills mount as my salary provides the bulk of our income. My Blushing Bride, while grateful to spend so much time with our Fine young Fool, feels guilty that she can't help her in-laws and RE teamates.

The walls of the tomb close in.

That's why I place my hope in those three days.

It's far too easy for any of us to say, "that's enough." It's far too simple for us to conclude that our ressurection must follow immediately upon our crucifixion. Would that it were so.

It's not.

God calls us to himself through the obstacles that confront us in our lives. Our suffering, when experienced in commitment to Truth and Love, become his suffering. Our deaths join mysteriously with his own. That means our time among the tomb also becomes one with his time in death.

If that's true, then that means we'll also share in his ressurection.

In this life, that means God's turning point comes. Our suffering will become the fertilizer of the seed of our joy: Faith in him. That Faith--that trust, that commitment--will yield a harvest of happiness. Our time of emerging from among the corpses comes. I believe it. I have to believe it.

No matter how long it takes.

That is the hope Christ's three days in the tomb witnesses to us this Easter. Even as we struggle with life in this season of joy, we know that the hour of our deliverance is soon at hand.

He is risen. We can trust that we will rise with him, too. Alleluiah!