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Holy Week has left its sweetness while I give thanks for the experience, enriched by prayer and Reza Aslan’s study of the resurrection in Zealot – The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (2013).His historical focus upon this mystery in first-century Palestine rehabbed my outdated faith.

Critical to this study is the oral tradition in which Jesus and those who knew him lived. From the very beginning, the collection of stories, in Aramaic, began inflaming imaginations and drawing countless followers. Yet, his failed mission did not extinguish his title, messiah: he was different than the others and they would find out why.

So deepened the ferment of those following his ignominious death on 30 C.E., on Golgotha. Initially, grief bleared their perception, but his memory buoyed spirits, and hope in his message lightened steps. Soon, more stories circulated—Jesus was still around.

Not until 50 C.E. did the first scriptural reference to the risen Christ appear. In Paul’s letter to the Greek city in Corinth, (15: 3-8) he alludes to an older liturgical formula drawn up by Jesus’s followers when gathered together.

About the same time, the Q Source, an early collection of Jesus’s sayings appears, followed by Mark’s first gospel, written in rough Greek, ten years later; neither contains accounts of the resurrection, but that would change. More ferment by the first believers eventually produced differing gospel accounts by Luke and Matthew, writing in different cities between 90 and 100 C.E. John’s gospel appears between 100 and 120 C.E., again with differing resurrection accounts—all intended to rebut disbelief and gain followers. It worked for centuries.

Aslan, the author, also reminds us that the gospels are not biography, but serve as manuals of faith to be practiced by believers. That’s the rub: sloth prefers the easier, softer way.

But faith in Jesus’s resurrection adds élan to this practice that prepares spirits for reasonable joy in this life and for an eternity of communion in the one following. It can’t be too much longer …

It was all over, another day of Roman brutality left Golgotha littered with corpses of Jewish seditionists and thieves, many nailed naked upon crossbeams, awaiting death or slow feeding by birds of prey and mangy dogs. More executions would take their place on the morrow.

One of the dead had friends, however. Sabbath concerns quickened their steps as they removed his wracked blood-encrusted remains from the cross and carried them to a rock-hewn tomb nearby, then placed lanterns inside: For the next twenty minutes, the walls shadowed this ongoing story of care: stooped in prayer, they washed the body, and like loving parents examined its wounds, its disfigurement, their tears commingling with the dank confines in the tomb.

Then, ever so slowly, they unfolded the linen shroud upon the ledge and positioned his body upon it, the napkin around his noble thorn-wounded head. Then, rough hands poured handfuls of oils and aromatic herbs from ampoules onto the skinned semblance of what was a man, until there was no more. They’d bring more oils after the Sabbath and finish the anointing. Besides, it was night, their aromatic hands softening their grief.

True, it was over—but it was just beginning …

Ever since that crucifixion took place on Golgotha, outside of Jerusalem, in 33CE, the victim has been Romanized, theologized, even socialized into invisibility. But the original Hebrew texts and the four Gospels witness to what happened: the ignominious death of a Jewish teacher, Yeshuva, believed to have been the Messiah.

Questions, if asked today, still ponder the depths of this person, still recoil from

the revolutionary nature of his teaching that fired the hearts of his listeners toward radical change. First-century Judea, like or own was corrupted by materialism, secularism, and hedonism; similarly, the gap between the affluent and starving still persists.

Yet, into this morass comes an oratorio, The Passion of Yeshuva (2017), composed by the Persian-American Richard Danielpour. It was time: Yeshuva would not keep silence, having nudged this artist, years before, to present the last day of his life in all his Jewishness. In thirty-seven days, its first draft was composed. That was in 2014. Central to the narrative are the voices of Yeshuva’s Mother and Mary of Magdela.

Continued revision of the Hebrew scriptures and English amalgams from the gospels and the selection of two choruses and five soloists filled out the years until its premier in 2019 by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. The CD was released the following year and nominated for three Grammy Awards at tonight’s presentation: Best Engineered Album, Choral performance, and Contemporary Classical Composition.

However, such acclamation falls short of the substance of Danielpour’s The Passion of Yeshuva. Within the oratorio, Yeshuva speaks. I’m still shivering …

Available on Amazon

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