“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.”
This Gospel opens in the dark . . . and moves into a very special light which darkness can never overcome.
We recall the words of the Irish poet, philosopher and scholar John O’Donohue:
We are always on our way from darkness into light. Every morning we come out of the dark territories of dreaming into waking awareness of the day. Every night, no matter now long, breaks again and the light of dawn comes. At birth, each of us made a journey from darkness into light. So we are no strangers to darkness, and we are special friends of the light.
On that first Easter morning, a day that began with the discovery of an empty tomb, Mary Magdalene, Peter and the Beloved Disciple could never have anticipated what a primal threshold they would cross as darkness gave way to the light. Just a few days before, Jesus had taken upon his shoulders all darkness everywhere in a most brutal and harrowing way—including our personal darkness, everyone’s personal darkness. He took it to the summit of Calvary; and then he was entombed in the most silent and total darkness imaginable.
But the wonder of this new day, the “first day of the week,” is that this darkness was “opened out,” and at the heart of the darkness a secret light was discovered. Slowly, at first almost imperceptibly. First, there was just enough light for Mary to find the tomb empty, and this has her running back to report the alarming news to the disciples. Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved then ran to investigate, and there was enough light for them to see the burial cloths left behind and the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head rolled up in a separate place. But although they could see this curious scene, and the beloved disciple came to an inchoate belief, they were still “in the dark,” not comprehending what all this meant. The Gospel ends: “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”
All the same, on that first Easter morning the darkness was “opened out,” and at the heart of the darkness a secret light was discovered. The dark and lonesome cross was “turned inside out,” so to speak. That’s a powerful image! When the cross hits our life, a loneliness, a blindness, a darkness envelops us, as it must have enveloped the disciples. It has been said that darkness and the experience of being lost are the worst parts of suffering. But with the Lord’s rising from the dead, a new tender light touched the disciples’ helpless fear and transfigured it, opened it, into courage. And so it does for us.
Our darkness? It is unique for each one of us and changes as we live, but all of us here know the need that is in our lives and the frailty that is in our hearts and minds. As John O’Donohue soberly observes: “We are strangers in the world. In our journey through life, anything can befall us. No matter how assured or competent we may feel, there is not one of us who has not large territories of fear in our hearts, fear of sharing ourselves, of opening ourselves, of entering life.”
But as we celebrate Christ rising from the dead, rising in our hearts, like the disciples we cross in faith a mysterious threshold from darkness to “Christ our Light.” One of the beauties of Easter morning is that the light that comes with Christ is a gentle but penetrating light in the midst of our darkness. As John O’Donohue puts it: “There is no hurt anywhere within us, no matter in what crevices it might be buried, but that the light of this Easter can reach it and heal it.” Yes, because of the Lord’s Resurrection, which is not a past fact but a living event within our lives, we are always on our way from darkness into light. Today let us search for the light of Easter in our hearts, and when we find it, let us celebrate it and share it generously with one another.
Share it? Perhaps surprisingly, we discover it only in sharing it. After all, the Lord died to pour into us his own love. God’s love is the light within each one of us. We are meant to be to one another a radiance of his love. Love is the great light in people, the light to see as God sees, the power of fire to do as God would do. To become light, to become all love – this is what we hope from the Lord in our blindness, and receive from the Risen Christ in our faith. It is our life’s mission as members of one another.
The Paschal Mystery we celebrate together this Easter Day reveals that hidden in the heart of all darkness, even our own, there is Easter Light—the Cross “turned inside out.” Last night as we followed the Paschal Candle through the dark cloisters into the Church, three times we paused and sang out: Lumen Christi! -Christ our Light! Our last word goes to Caryll Houselander, the extraordinary British mystic, poet and spiritual teacher who speaks so plainly of what is so sublimely simple:
Christ has risen. After the dark night of his passion, he is the morning light; after the cold darkness of the tomb, he is the white bloom on the thorn. His resurrection is not something far away, merely remembered in the Church’s radiant liturgy. It is Christ dawning, Christ flowering in our lives, now, today. That is what Easter means: we have our heart’s desire, we are made new, new with the newness of the risen Christ, burning with the new fire of his love.
Excerpts from Father Dominic's Easter homily.