"Risen Indeed," the fourth story in Lawrence Dorr's The Long Journey Home, is no more complex than the title asserts. Very simply, it's a story with a climax that arrives with the refugee's blessed assurance of Christ's resurrection.
Imagine that--a story that banishes the darkness with nothing more or less than than the only truly empty grave in the history of humankind. That's it. It's that simple.
In "Risen Indeed," once again the darkness permeates the refugee's existence with uninvited flashbacks that take him completely out of the here-and-now and leave him feeling stranded in the desolated world at the end of the war. He simply can't forget what he'd rather not remember. There's an empty church in "Risen Indeed," a church he stumbles into when he's trying to stay alive in Salzburg, when he has nothing to eat, when he dreams of Spam (he's seen a picture) and determines to attack an American soldier to get arrested and thrown into an American prison where they actually feed their prisoners. He's that starved.
When he can't do it, he looks for solace in a church the war has destroyed.
The altar was bare. It had been stripped of its linen and candlesticks. The door of the safe behind the altar was open. It was empty. . .He was standing in an empty space where the sound of weeping and crying would always be heard, where hope had ceased forever. There would never be a new heaven and new earth, a new Jerusalem. He cried with dry sobs as if he had been drained even of his tears. He cried for the empty world, he cried for himself. . .
The memory of his own faithlessness is summoned by the tearful confession of a woman who tells him that she feels abandoned by a priest who claims in an article in a church paper that talk of the bodily resurrection of Christ is, well, not only silly but chauvinistic, the empty burden of those embarrassing 19th century missionaries who were carrying cultural imperialism in the name of Jesus Christ. She is mortified. "Without the resurrection I have nothing," she tells the refugee, decades later on a college campus. "You can't imagine the desolation I feel."
Well, she's wrong. He can imagine the desolation because he's lived it. It's her confession that reawakens the horrors he lived through after the war--the empty church and the whole line of dead men and women he witnessed hanging from the goal posts of the soccer field he played in as a boy, those he thought he would himself soon be among.
But it's Holy week now, decades later, and there's Maunday Thursday, the only Royal Feast.
Then his name was called and he recognized it. It was the voice Him Who cooked fish on a charcoal fire for his friends and said: "Come and have breakfast." It was the voice that made them know that beyhond chronos was the kairos of everlasting life. He looked at the image of Christ the King, at the Easter lilies on the altar, at the cross made of wildflowers, and he cried out with the instinctive cry of the newborn.The story ends with the cry of the newborn in Christ. It ends where real life begins, with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. "Risen Indeed" is a very simple story, and it's not long.
"Christ is risen. Christ is risen."
"Risen indeed," the others shouted back.
There's something of a paradox here, I'm afraid. Maybe it's just me. What makes the story difficult--and make no mistake!--it is--is that it's so incredibly simple. The story's remarkable testimony is that the scarred refugee takes the refuge he's looked for so desperately in the only real comfort he knows he can know: "Christ is risen."
That simple truth here is that He is our peace. That's the story of "Risen Indeed."