3 I gave to you as greatest importance, what I received. That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures 4 and he was buried and that he rose on the third day according to the scriptures. 5 He first appeared to Cephas then to the twelve. 6 After that he appeared at the same time to five hundred brethren, most of whom still remain, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all as to one born out of his time, he also appeared to me.
1 Cor 15: 3-8
We have reached the end of the first week. We can pause and reflect for a moment on the significance of the events of the previous six days.
In this extract from St Paul we step for a moment into the future. St Paul writes of a time past Pentecost. Christ has completed his work on the physical body, and, just as important, he has completed his work with the subtle bodies. Looking back on the Christ event, what does Paul rate as the most important of the teachings about Christ? It is that Christ arises in a transformed body, and that he appears to those who can see this body.
We know from Paul’s other writings that he was a difficult case. He had to be knocked off his horse in order to open his spiritual eyes. Not only was he knocked off a physical horse, he was forced off a metaphorical horse - his intellectual knowledge and positions. This tells us that Christ does not appear to us if we have very established mental opinions and structures.
We should note also that Paul when he has this mystical experience, an experience beyond words, does not rush around proclaiming this to the world. He actually retreats into isolation for fourteen years.
This connects with another phrase of vital importance. Christ appears to five hundred at once. Most of those who had the experience abide still. That is, they abide in the consciousness of the vision. There are, however, some who have “fallen asleep”. Although modern translators like to tell us that these people have died, Paul doesn’t use the perfectly good Greek word for dying, thanatao, he uses a word that literally means sleeping. In other words, some who have the Christ experience fall back into their old unconscious state.
It is not enough to have a wonderful spiritual experience. We come back into the old world, and the old world wants to put us back to sleep. There is a second stage. We need to transform our consciousness into spiritual consciousness. Only if we create this new consciousness can we live continually in the consciousness of Christ. We have been born into Christ consciousness. We have been reborn. We remain, we abide in Christ.
The visionary artist, William Blake, shows us Saul, still balancing on his horse—his intellect—gazing upwards into the face of the risen Christ. Saul is stationary, but everything above him is in motion. Christ points the way forward. The vision comes to Saul for a purpose, his purpose. From this point in his life Saul becomes Paul. He will always go forward to his goal. He will always press forward.
On this day, we can focus on our own goal. Find one thing that you can do that will take you closer to your goal. Do it.
How do you do it? St Paul tells us. He says three things are necessary. He says “Forget what is behind you. Go forward. Never, under any circumstance, stand still. Always have a goal, a purpose before you. Press onward. And remember that the nearer you get to the goal the more obstacles are put in your way.”
Rev Mario Schoenmaker, Paul on the Road to Damascus, 14th April 1977