Further Up and Further In: Psalm 134
Here it is. The last Psalm of Ascent. Does this mean we have reached the top? On the contrary, it would appear that the end of this journey is just the beginning.
On Good Friday, Christ ascended Golgotha to be crucified for us. In that moment He was at the summit, and it appeared the only way left to go was down. Down from the cross. Dead. In reality, this was the beginning of life. Christ opened a new summit for all of us. A summit which reunited us with God. Hope was born anew.
Easter is full of wonderful imagery to help us understand this wonderful gift we receive. One image which speaks to me in a special way in this season is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is referred to in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the “source and summit” of the wellspring of our faith. Ironic words for this journey of ascent.
Source and summit at first appear to be seemingly contradictory terms. The source of a spring is something hidden and underground, sacred and untouched. If we want pure water we have to dig for it. The summit, on the other hand, is exposed and high for all to see. Even if it is sometimes covered in clouds and obscured, the summit can be glimpsed through breaks in the cloud.
On Calvary, source and summit were united. Out of Christ’s pierced side flowed the Church in the blood and water. Purity and life. The source was now on the summit. The pure source of our new life was held high for all to see.
Contradiction is something adults readily grasp, but this concept is often lost on children. Both my boys believe they have super powers and a usual day involves flying around the house and shooting lasers from their hands. Obviously, there is nothing in their biology to ever give them Superman-like powers. No matter how much they dream. But there is also nothing in their biological makeup that stops them from greatness. If only we could all have this perspective on life. Imagination unlocks whole new worlds.
My favorite childhood series when I was growing up was the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. There was something magical about these books that shaped the way I engaged reality. I have re-read this series every couple of years to help me keep perspective on reality, and I look forward to reading these books to my boys soon.
In this Easter season, I am reminded of a quote from the last book in the series: The Last Battle:
“Further up and Further in!”
The characters have just entered a new world through a door as the old world disappears behind them. They see familiar places in this new world and the further they explored, the more they find to explore. The higher they go, the more land unfolds before them. This is confusing to them at first because logic would tell you that the further one goes up a mountain, the less land space there is. The summit is normally just a small plot of land. Eventually the characters realize that this new world is not like the old, so with newfound energy and curiosity their cry becomes “further up and further in!” With every turn they plunge themselves into the loveliness which continues to reveal itself as ever greater. I don’t want to give too much away, but the imagery conveyed by C.S. Lewis is breathtaking.
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that sometimes it looked like this… come further up and further in!”
C.S Lewis, The Last Battle
Now in Easter week, at the end of my journey with the Psalms of Ascent, I experience anew the whole world unfolding before me, unlocked by Christ’s death and resurrection. I am called to lead my family and myself into the exploration of this new world of life and love– one that is situated in, but not of of this world.
“Further up and Further in!”
“Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD Who stand in the house of the LORD through the long hours of night. Lift up your hands toward the sanctuary, and bless the LORD. May the LORD who made heaven and earth bless you from Zion.”