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Easter Butterflies

Dear Parish Family,


The process of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly is fascinating. The first step is when the

caterpillar spins a small silk pod known as a chrysalis. This pod actually becomes a tomb for the caterpillar. Once the caterpillar’s body has been completely wrapped up, it actually starts to digest itself and dissolves completely. What was the body of the caterpillar becomes pudding.


If we were to cut into the chrysalis at this stage, we would find neither a caterpillar nor a

butterfly… but a mysterious, formless goo that would appear lifeless.


The goo inside is composed of a bunch of undifferentiated cells known as “imaginal cells.”

Unbelievably, (but isn’t all of this unbelievable so far?!) these cells are “generalists” that can

become any kind of cell. Some will become legs, others will make up an abdomen, others will become new organs, still others will be wings.


Scientists have studied this phenomenon and have examined individual caterpillars before the metamorphosis process and the butterflies that later emerged from those cocoons. By

observing each insect’s response to electrical impulse stimulation testing on both ends of the chrysalis, scientists have observed that the individual butterflies show a response to the

stimulation that mirrors the response of the caterpillar from before the change.


Now, that would be amazing even if caterpillars “matured” into butterflies, but, as scientists

know, that’s not what happens. They don’t mature into butterflyhood, the way children

mature into adolescence and then into adulthood. They instead dissolve into a nutritional

soup, a goo made up of cells that can become just about anything, sort of like human stem cells do. So the caterpillar doesn’t mature into the butterfly. Instead, it turns into nothing. And only then does it emerge from nothing into a new creation.


Rabbi Mezritch, an ancient Jewish mystic, wrote in his Maggid: “Nothing in the world can

change from one reality to another unless it first turns into nothing, that is, into the reality of the between-stage,” he said. “In that stage it is nothing and no one can grasp it, for it has

reached the rung of nothingness, just as before creation. And (only) then it is made into a new creature.”


This insight helps to explain what happened on Easter morning was not a resuscitation of Jesus from a coma. His death on the cross was not some sort of slipping away from consciousness, but Jesus’ actual destruction. Only when we get to heaven will we possibly grasp any of this, but we know that the life Jesus had after leaving the tomb was not the same life as the one he had before the cross. That life was destroyed. It ended.


And yet… after those three days of nothingness… Jesus went on to new life. We know that for

most people he wasn’t even recognizable. But if they paid attention – not unlike the way the

scientists paid careful, excited attention to the butterflies, they could see that it was indeed

Jesus. He truly went from life to death… and from death to new life. His form changed, his life changed, his future changed… but his relationships endured. Jesus is God’s divine butterfly. Resurrection is God’s law of life. May Easter fill all of us with hope and joy.


Alleluia, Alleluia, ALLELUIA!



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