Saturday, April 4, 2015

Resurrection as Recognition: Synchronicity in the Cloud

But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see. And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.  But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” [Luke 24:21-32, NAB]

Luke's first presentation of the risen Jesus is incendiary. Somewhere between a hardened heart and a changed heart (between sklerokardia and metanoia), is a heart ablaze, burning within the release of an event, Jesus's own deconstruction of the scriptures. First Cleopas reads to Jesus, then Jesus reads to the two of them. Jesus ghosts the moment, and the disciples change their travel plans; they do not stay at Emmaus, but return to Jerusalem.

This is a strange recognition scene, especially when considered against the backdrop of such scenes in the Odyssey, in which Odysseus's presence becomes more and more palpable as the the elements of his identity incrementally allows him to shine forth. Here, the disciples' 'burning,' reaching its climax in the breaking of the bread, has an opposite effect on Jesus's appearance: he becomes aphantos (ἄφαντος), a shining 'back,' an absence, in a disappearance like light near a black hole.

The timing here is interesting for its vagueness. Does Jesus absent himself at his recognition or just after the recognition? The text implies something sequential: they recognize then he becomes aphantos. But what is the object of recognition---upon what does the disciples' gaze rest? The bread? The 'breaking' of the bread? The person of Jesus? The synchronicity here astounds us as the report of the women astounds the disciples, but the absence of any causal relation in the bread-break-recognition-aphantos strikes us as pure relationality. The acausal connections here are the stuff of the cloud. Without devolving onto Jung's spooked experience with Pauli and Einstein, it remains a fascinating observation that the concept of synchronicity is a response to quantum theory, which, as I have recently noted, is phenomenology. Keller recounts how such meaningful coincidences fold in the cloud (Cloud of the Impossible, 135). Enough: we will not be calling Ghostbusters. The risen Jesus ain't no spook, despite the initial misapprehension of the Jerusalem disciples (Luke 24:37).

The meaningful coincidences within this first presentation of the risen Christ in Luke's gospel occurs only in the unus mundus that resonates in the folds of reality. The resurrection that takes form in the synchronicity in Luke makes its appearance in quantum acausality: Jesus pops in and out like an electron in its orbital. The burning in the hearts is a response to the resurrection as the presence of the Word in the flesh allegorizing the words of scripture referring to himself. The words set hearts ablaze as they shine forth; the words themselves are ablaze. The saturation Luke creates here conflagrates the moment, which brings forth the disappearance of Jesus into his resurrection. 

The disciples are caught in the iconic gaze in the event of the resurrection. Their hearts change. They turn back, transformed, toward Jerusalem, where they see Jesus again, this time with a bit more presence. This appearance is of an entirely different character. The emphasis rests on the body. The concreteness of the experience moves the disciples to the coolness of praise. Luke gives us two views on the resurrection in his presentation of the experience of the disciples. In the white hot on the road to Emmaus, the disciples discover Jesus in the word. In Jerusalem they discover him in the promise (ἐπαγγελίαν ).

The calculus of Marion's reduction might help to resolve the apparent aporia of two senses of resurrection, "by lending themselves to the play of a crossed exchange of significations---thus firmly consecrating the distance within them" (The Erotic Phenomenon, 105). We are therefore not dealing with two distinct phenomena of resurrection, but a single "crossed phenomenon" of bi-directionality, "fixed by a single signification." The crossed phenomenon of resurrection plays at the junction of disappearance and appearance: the aphantos that coincides with the breaking of the bread and the recognition of Jesus as the risen Lord, crossed with the palpable appearance of Jesus as flesh and bone eating broiled fish in the presence of the disciples. If the reduction works to release the event, then the event must be released from the single signification of which disappearance and appearance are of a piece.

That formulation seems to obscure as much as it illuminates. The "play" of significations that really constitute a single signification and therefore a single (though 'crossed') phenomenon seems all play and little meaning. Yet, "a ghost has no flesh and bones" as the risen Jesus does (Luke 24:39). The re-enactment of the last supper at Emmaus unites all this play into Eucharistic phenomenality. The pre-disaster meal comes to the fore and folds the gaze of the disciples into the disappearance of one substance and the appearance of something new, palpable and real.

This reduction of the appearances of aphantos at Emmaus and the body of Jesus, hands, feet, body and bone at Jerusalem allow the crossed phenomenon of the resurrection to present to the experience of the disciples within the single signification fixed within the intuitions at work at the two locations. The experiences at Emmaus and Jerusalem are both rooted in Jesus's placing the deconstruction of the scriptures---the release of their messianism---within their understanding: "he opened their minds so they could understand" (Luke 24:45). The resurrection resolves in the Ascension, which relocates the risen Lord in Eucharistic memory, emblazoned there by the utter materiality of Christ's real presence in the presence of the disciples.

 Luke's was a very busy Sunday. The disciples, on this third day, had their hope fulfilled that "He was the one." The act of breaking the bread (lubricated by the messianic word) at Emmaus becomes a moment of synchronicity at Jerusalem: the mere report of this act to the"eleven" coincides with Jesus being in their midst (24:36). He takes them on another trip, this time to Bethany, where he bids them farewell; they worship him and return to Jerusalem where they praised God in the temple and awaited the arrival of the promised Spirit which will clothe them with power from on high (24:49). Burning hearts are encouraged to proclaim the Easter faith and bear witness to the stark and impossible reality of the resurrection.

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