This wonderful Easter reflection (used with permission) is by my friend Wendy Bray, a priest and author who lives with terminal cancer. It’s marvellous – do read.
For anyone who finds Easter hard because it seems to be all about sunshine and brightness and life -all-sorted, this might be helpful for you. Happy Easter.
As we approach Easter Sunday each year, I read the bible narrative around the resurrection, praying that I might see something new, something original, something that has never occurred to me before which might give me more insight or understanding, not just into into the essence of this remarkable event, but into the context in which it is read: the life circumstances in which I find myself; in which we find ourselves.
This year, I am pondering the fact that each gospel account begins with the suggestion that the resurrection must have happened, not in the bright light of a sunny Sunday morning, daffodils waving in the breeze…(and dare I say it….bunnies hopping from their burrows!) but in the very opposite of those things:
The resurrection happened from a place of darkness.
As two of the gospel accounts tell us, and the other two infer:
“Early in the morning, while it was still dark….”
It’s in darkness that the joy of Easter Sunday really began.
Not with an acclamation of joy in the risen-ess of Christ- but with fear, bewilderment and deep uncertainty among those who loved him and had lived with him.
Sometime in the predawn hours of that morning,
a mystery beyond our comprehension transpired in secret.
No sunlight illuminated the event.
No human being witnessed it.
There wasn’t a trumpet blast or an organ thunder.
Whatever the resurrection was and is, its origin and fulness lies in holy darkness, shielded from our eyes.
It exceeds all of our attempts at explanation, because it’s a mystery known only to God.
All we can know is that somehow, in an ancient tomb on a dark night, God worked in secret to bring life out of death.
Somehow, from a place of loss and misery, grief and pain, God enacted resurrection.
And of course there was Jesus.
it took a while for him to be recognized in the half -light. Even by those who knew him well and loved him.
He didn’t do what was expected.
He wasn’t what was expected.
He took everyone by surprise in the most mysterious of ways.
In my own life, I am finding it increasingly true that clarity, hope, and an ability to “just keep going” come when I am willing to linger in darkness and half light.
To stay in the uncomfortable place where there are no easy answers to the difficult questions….
where I don’t really know why I am there or what I am hoping for…
the places where the usual platitudes fall flat.
Then, somehow, Jesus comes in the darkness
I rarely expect to see him…
It often takes a long time to recognize him…
He doesn’t look the way I expect him to look…
He often isn’t what I expect him to be.
I can’t believe my eyes-as metaphorical as they might be.
But he is there in the darkness and he is risen.
What matters, today, then, is encountering the risen Christ in the muddle, doubt and darkness of our own lives.
What matters is finding in the empty tomb the hope we need for our own struggles, losses, traumas, and disappointments.
Often, it’s only in retrospect, only as I look back at the dark times in my life, that I understand what resurrection really is.
I realise I would not have known it in any other place.
The poet R.S. Thomas describes the process this way in his poem “The Answer”:
“There have been times
when, after long on my knees
in a cold chancel, a stone has rolled
from my mind, and I have looked
in and seen the old questions lie
folded and in a place
by themselves, like the piled
grave-clothes of love’s risen body.”
Over the last few days we have witnessed the near destruction of one of the most iconic cathedrals in the world: Notre Dame.
Most of us will have seen that marvelous photograph, (taken, incidentally, by a journalist who crept into the cathedral, unseen, behind President Macron’s visiting party!)
It shows the dust cloud and the rubble in the half light of the cathedral. Above it the cross stands golden and gleaming, unmoving and unscathed, bathed in a shaft of light coming from an opening high above.
It is perhaps a good illustration of the way-in a dark and destructive world-we might see the resurrection afresh. As something not immune or resistant to that destruction, or to dirt, disappointment, tragedy or pain.
But rather something mysterious and wonderful which comes from the very depths of those things;
There is resurrection despite all of that
Even because of all of that.
This Easter, may the Christ who rose in the darkness lead us into new life, new light, and new hope.
May we know him in the half-lit places, the shadowy places, the places of rubble and destruction, the dark places.
May we dare to linger at the tomb until he calls our names and sends us forth to share with the world:
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
Find Wendy Bray’s books here.