I heard a clip of Northrop Frye discussing Easter today on CBC radio. Frye wrote, among other wonderful books. “The Great Code”, in which he showed the vast structural underpinnings of English literature to be those of the Bible. His position: that while the branches have grown away from the trunk in complex and intricate ways that are not apparently biblical, we are always telling and re-telling that core story.
On the clip I heard today he was discussing the mythological parallels with the Christian story. Gods who were incarnate, died, and were reborn. Very old vegetative mythologies where the grain must die to sprout again. Old matriarchal religions in which, as he tactfully put it, the divine mother stands in a very different relationship to the dying and reborn young deity than was the case in Christianity. The even older cannibalistic sacraments of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the same young god.
None of this is new to me, but it’s all a cat I’ve put away in a bag. I hear it scritching in there from time to time, but it’s easy to ignore. Mr. Frye opened the bag today and I am, with some trepidation, looking at the cat, How does one hold that information – and it’s true; those mythologies have existed – and still stand in relation to the living Lord, Jesus, dead, resurrected, as real and touchable as the man whose grocery cart I bumped into this morning?
I can see where there might be some intellectual ways to frame it. Humanity is programmed for this one. We’ve been wating for it forever. Ripples from the impact of Jesus roll backwards as well as forwards in time. As we have grown and evolved always we have been orbiting this one central story, that God was born into human flesh, died, and was born again.
I have children. I love them probably more than I have ever loved any human being. If it was required, I’m reasonably certain I would die for them. Pure biology. I’m DNA’d for the preservation of the species. I’m a male. I’m expendable. They aren’t. Male animals are programmed to die protecting their young. Or at least some are; just a few clicks of the DNA trigger and I might equally see them as breakfast.
There’s a context in which that’s all true, but when I stand in relation to one of them all that stuff is swept away by love. It’s bigger than any narrative, and DNA is just another mythology, really.
Subjectively I know that Jesus is real. I can’t prove it any more than I can prove that I am real, but I know it in the same way. I know that he came to bring me home. He had to negotiate with death to do it. when I stand in that place the narratives are of secondary importance. Maybe the naming of the correspondences is a two-way street. We just bring them to the altar of God living and reborn, and the intellectual play of it, which can’t take anything away from him, since he owns the whole playground, just becomes part of worship.