Easter Sunday Vigil Mass
The resurrection gospels always fascinate me with their surface matter of factness. It is like sauntering along a level path and suddenly vanishing into a sink hole. Our architect, the late Dave Richen incorporated this aspect of mystery into his designs. He called it the reveal. If you look around at our choir stalls you will see this. Your eye travels along the red oak and then there is the dip with the black reveal – the presence of mystery hidden in the everyday.
The gospel of the resurrection, this holy night, is full of this ‘reveal’ It is full of the everyday and yet in it the collision of two cosmic systems. The collision of death with the world of never ending life but all very matter-of-factly with some women wending their way to a tomb, early one morning in first century Palestine. Concealed in this gospel is what I would call the template for the encounter with the resurrection in our everyday lives. There is a transfigured world lying in wait for us, like a viper on our path that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward.
The gospel tells us that the women went to the tomb to anoint a dead body. This is their focus. Their expectations, like our expectations are shaped by the impenetrable wall of gloom that always goes ahead. In this world even imagination can only ricochet off its prison walls.
Then comes the disruption. Another gospel has them asking themselves – who will roll the stone away for us? This is the point of anxiety for them, one more token of death and impossibility. But stone is rolled away – just like that, gratuitously. The transfigured world disrupts their pattern of expectation. Resurrection grace for us is like that – things do not add up when it intrudes in our lives. You were told that 2 plus 2 equals 4 but how does 2 plus 2 equal six. It is the experience of undeserved grace so that between our past and our post grace present there is a sort of chasm of non-continuity.
This disruption turns into disorientation for the women with the appearance of two men in dazzling garments. The facts do not add up for them, the stone rolled away, no dead body of Jesus but they still revert to their old ways of thinking. Their minds almost obsessively are conditioned to be still looking for the dead Jesus in an endless inner loop. They are judging the new world through the limited lens of the old. They have to be jolted out of this by the men from heaven who tell them ‘why do you seek the living one among the dead?’ Remember what He said to you.
Grace also disrupts our lives, facts do not add up, undeserved mercies pile up where nature should have taken its destructive course. We still root around for explanations from the world of unbelief. Coincidence, only coincidence. Mere figments of the imagination. Opium of the masses. It is like seeking the living one among the dead. Remember what He said. The women have to change their narrative, change their minds. So must we. We must seek to understand the disruptions of grace and mercy by turning to the Word of God – remember. Usually we judge the things of God, the paradoxes of grace by our own standards of death. I think conversion is precisely letting the Word of God explain our experience for us. Faith must widen the wonder in the mind, if we are to live in the transfigured world.
Finally the women through remembrance are stabilized in the new world of grace. The new narrative, the remembrance becomes their narrative, they have personalized it. They can become heralds of the resurrection because they know its power from within. Not as a nice theory or concept but as living water, as a vast land where before there was just the wall of darkness, And so it is with us when we have been acclimated by grace and conversion to this new world. It is the only narrative that can comprehend the facts and experiences of the new world impinging on us. Once we have tasted life and live by this life, we cannot but be heralds of this life to others.
It happened to the women. It is also open to us. May the light springing from the grave transfigure our own lives so that we too witness to the Living One, Christ Jesus our Lord who lives and reigns forever and ever.