Behold! Persephone has arisen. She is risen indeed.
Persephone, beloved daughter of Zeus and Demeter, has escaped her abductor Hades, brother of Zeus—again. Her mother, Demeter—daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and goddess of grain—rejoices.
Demeter lifts her curse from the soil. Earth blossoms. Trees bud. Fruits, nuts, grains, and berries will soon burst forth.
Sing choirs of angels! Sing in adoration!
Let us eat, drink, and be merry today, for come winter Persephone will cross over the River Styx into the realm of the dead—again.
It’s an old story. The origins are fuzzy. But the power of the story is clear: It gives hope to people living through bleak winter seasons.
Persephone stands for the victory of life over death, of hope over despair.
We may call it a myth, but ancient peoples did not distinguish between logos and mythos as we do. Logos and mythos were nearly the same. The resurrection of Persephone explained natural cycles. Period.
The resurrection of Jesus explains something else, something of human nature. According to the gospel story, several distraught women trudged through a garden to the tomb. They were not heartened by the signs of spring that morning. They were heartened by the appearance of Jesus, the one who loved his enemies to death.
That’s not natural.
Many Roman, Greek, Babylonian, and Egyptian myths explain natural phenomena. The world didn’t need another myth like that. The world needed something else—a story of hope in the face of human injustice and cruelty.
Can humans come back from catastrophic defeat with a spirit of resolute defiance and courage?
Yes, we can. Yes, we have.
The resurrection of Jesus tells that story. It’s situated in a certain time and place, but, like other myths, it is timeless.
Over and over again, in the wake of a martyr’s death—John Hus, Joan of Arc, John Brown, Gandhi, Martin Luther King—a body arises to continue the work. In the wake of Jesus’s death, a body arose. No, not the singular body of Jesus (dead bodies do not come back to life) but a body of people carrying on the work of Jesus—welcoming outcasts, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, soothing the tormented, refusing weapons—at least until they embraced the Empire, sought power and glory, and forsook the way of love.
That killed Jesus for good.
Or did it?
See Paula’s “Peaches & Daffodils” on the home page. Posted March 26, 2023