Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday

John 20
11Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12She saw two white-robed angels sitting at the head and foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13“Why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
14She glanced over her shoulder and saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15“Why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
16“Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned toward him and exclaimed, “Teacher!”
17“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”
18Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

An empty tomb
A garden of strangers
Tears and confusion
and an old way of seeing.
To visit death
and find him missing
To visit death
that is no more. (mjk)

It was Robertson Davies that said, "the eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend." For Mary, the context for her garden visit was death. She stood crying, that morning, as she expressed her confusion and pain before an empty tomb. A man spoke, but he remained a stranger to her in the context of death.

Science tells us that visual experience is useful because it creates memories of things seen that can later serve as a context for things never seen before. In this way, you can think of experience as a form of context that you carry around with you. (Encarta) In the context of death, the stranger remained a stranger as long as her Master and Lord remained dead and gone.

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

When Aristotle imagined the process of seeing he imagined that the eye formed a likeness of the object before it and sent that likeness to the sensus communis, a centre of perception found in the region of the heart. In this sense, he is the perceptive forebear of Saint-Exupery and all those who believe that the heart has its own way of seeing.

Mary, in her grieving saw a stranger. Mary, hearing her name, saw her Lord. The eye of her heart opened and what was once invisible became visible and clear and alive once more. An eleventh-century prayer from a Spanish Mass expresses it this way:

Dic nobis Maria
quid vidisti in via
Sepulcrum Christi viventis
et gloriam vidi resurgentis...

Tell us, Mary, what you saw on the way?
"I saw the tomb of the living Christ
and the glory of his rising;
angelic witnesses, the towel and the linen cloths.
Christ my hope is arisen;
he goes before his own to Galilee."

Christ my hope is arisen: he goes before his own to Galilee. The singularity of this message stands for the ages: it lives outside of time and will always be so.

He is risen!
He is risen, indeed!


We live with the illusion that death surrounds us. We live with the illusion that we are powerless in its face. But Mary has a different message for us, a message that defeats death and sets our hearts aright. She says: "I have seen the Lord."

"I have seen the Lord" marks the end of death, and the end of its hold over us. "I have seen the Lord" is the confirmation we need of that which is written on our DNA: death is never the last word, and the Risen One remains in our midst. "Death, be not proud," John Donne wrote. Be not proud because your dominion is ended, your hold is broken, your power is no more.

What does it mean that death is ended? How do we live the message, how do we make it sing? St. Paul wrote these words, and every Easter they impose themselves on my mind as I imagine the font and the water and the gift of new life found in baptism:
Have you forgotten that when we became Christians and were baptized to become one with Christ Jesus, we died with him? 4For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Have you forgotten? Could we forget? While our minds may forget and our eyes refuse to see, it remains written on our hearts, written from the moment we emerged from the water of new life. Through the glorious power of the Father we live new lives, an endless opportunity to begin anew.


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