I have a somewhat macabre picture in my mind of zombies stumbling to Thanksgiving dinner. There’s a table full of zombies feasting on turkey, dressing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Once they finish the appetizers, they start looking to the host for the next course.
Somehow a little bit Halloween has gotten into Thanksgiving and these “walking dead” keep showing up unannounced with a ravenous hunger.
Zombies do seem to keep showing up everywhere nowadays. They’ve broken free from George Romero’s films and are now showing up in Jane Austen novels like the awfully popular “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” They’re ambling through video games, comic books, social protests and even academic research.
In 2009, Carlton University and the University of Ottowa conducted a mathematical modeling analysis to determine the best plan of action in case of a zombie outbreak. The Center for Disease Control recently utilized zombies for an emergency preparedness campaign. So why not have zombies over for Thanksgiving?
In the modern reinterpretation of the “zombie myth,” these staggering sleepwalkers were once normal humans. Some cataclysmic event or pandemic turned them into human flesh eaters. They cannot stop consuming.
I think the zombies are already here. The walking dead dwell among us.
The Victorian author George MacDonald might say that the “walking undead” dwell among us. In his novel Lillith, he suggests that those who selfishly cling to life are undead. The undead do not yet to know how to live. Only when they die, will they live.
With a deep dose of German Romanticism, the novel follows the dark adventures of the undead Mr. Vane as he wanders across the far side of the grave. At one point, he encounters two skeletons crumbling apart as they argue. His guide, the raven explains that the skeletons are husband and wife. They’re damned to keep grumbling and crumbling until they can fully love and finally dance.
Like those skeletons, we stumble and grumble through the world, dull to wonder and glory and the utter joy of existence. We’ve been lulled into the sin of apetheia (sloth) by busyness, by disappointment, by confusion, by suffering and oddly enough by prosperity.
We can only handle so many blessings before we become bored. The monotony of daily blessings numbs us to the privilege of every breath. So we focus on our discontent while longing for more of the same. Many of us will literally stumble to Thanksgiving in state of ravenous somnolence.
I fear that we’ve gorged ourselves into a stupor. Like the ghouls on film, we can’t stop consuming. We consume news, entertainment, food, sex, ideas, and people. We use up everything and everyone for our pleasure and our misery.
Instead of realizing our uncontrollable urge, we can only realize how disappointed we are. For starters, no one gives us the recognition we’ve earned, and we deserve. We complain about people, about the world, about our families, and about God (even when we claim he’s not there).
We need some sort of shock treatment to jolt us back into the glory of existence.
After almost languishing to death in the fatalistic art scene of the 1890s, G.K. Chesterton experienced a resurrection of sorts. He woke up and was stunned to be alive. In Orthodoxy, he writes, “The world was a shock, but it was not merely shocking; existence was a surprise, but it was a pleasant surprise.” Later, he would write, “Merely to exist for a moment, and see a white patch of daylight on a gray wall, ought to be an answer to all the pessimism of the world.”
By God’s grace, may we know this same jolt! If we are ever to escape the undying urge of self-consuming zombie feasting, we must know this same vital life. St. Bonaventure saw this life poured out in the cross. In love, God pours Himself into humanity in Christ. As a man, God pours his life out completely in the cross. Bonaventure saw this as the unrestrained love of the Son that holds nothing back—not even life itself. The answer to such an outpouring is unquenchable life: resurrection.
The resurrection reveals the Father’s kiss to the Son. The loving act of total outpouring of the Son is reciprocated by the Father in the act of outpouring the Spirit of Life into the Son. This death-life movement is the exact opposite of the zombie that craves human flesh. Instead of sucking life in, God pours life out.
We need a resurrection. We need the life of the Resurrected One. Thus, Bonaventure might direct our feasting to another thanksgiving meal: The Great Thanksgiving. The church calls the communion meal or the Eucharist, The Great Thanksgiving. As we eat the bread and drink the wine, we encounter afresh the unrestrained love of God revealed in Christ.
This is real consuming, according William T. Cavanaugh. In “Being Consumed” he writes, “To consume the Eucharist is an act of anticonsumption, for here to consume is to be consumed, to be taken up into participation in something larger than the self, yet in a way in which the identity of the self is paradoxically secured.” In the Great Thanksgiving, we are welcomed into the communion of death and life.
We taste the mystery of love without restraint. Even as we remember the death of our Lord, we might forget our unrestrained craving. We might know the pain and joy of death and life in one movement.
Like Chesterton, we might be jolted awake from the sleep of the undead. We might discover the unexplainable mystery of being alive. Instead of killing zombies or becoming all consuming zombies this Thanksgiving, we might actually become thanksgiving, pouring out the unquenchable life and love of our Living Lord to the world around us.