Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mary, Holding On.

She crumpled into a heap against the rock, and wept.  Tears covered her face entirely, for this was the deep weeping of grief upon grief, of insult and confusion thrown rudely on top of sadness.  Her stomach ached from weeping, and she curled her small legs into her body and wailed.

“Why…?  Why would they do this?” she cried.  She was barely aware of the world around her: right now, her world was her sadness and the cold rock at her side.  She raised her eyes for just a moment and looked to her left, into the overwhelming emptiness of the tomb.  Some part of her hoped it was a mistake, a dream, and that his body would be there after all.  But it wasn’t, and her head fell, and she cried again.

Her thoughts swirled with anger and sadness and questions and accusations.  Why would you take him?  Was it not enough to kill him?  What right do you have to do this?  You snakes!  You vile, awful snakes!  She turned her head, almost unconsciously, and looked inside again.  She was not surprised to see two men sitting there where his body should be.  They had probably been sent to give some kind of message to his followers.  One of them looked at her and spoke.

“My lady, why are you crying?”

A swirl of answers to such a cruel question came to her head, but she caught her breath and answered simply.  “They’ve taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve laid him.  Please,” she said, “if you know where he is… please…”  But another wave of tears took her words away.  Through the cloud of tears, she saw a set of dusty feet in front of her: the groundskeeper.  She didn’t have the strength, neither in her mind nor her muscles, to look up.  He asked the same, cruel question.

“My lady, why are you crying?  Who are you looking for?”

Maybe he would know, she thought, maybe he was here when they took him.

“Please, sir.”  Her voice was ragged now, and her words came out in a choked rasp.  “Please, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I’ll take him.  Please!”  She held her head in her hands and covered her eyes, sorrow and complete weariness overtaking her.

The groundskeeper bent down on his haunches, put his hand on her shoulder, and said a single word.


The word was warm and rich, and drenched in a familiar mercy.  She raised her eyes, and saw the last person she ever expected to see again; the only person she ever hoped to see again.  Her breath left her, and life shot out from her heart to her fingertips.  “Rabbouni!” she screamed, and tackled him in an embrace that sent them both awkwardly to the ground.

“Rabbouni! Rabbouni!” she said again and again, kissing his hands, his fingers, his face, his feet, as if her kisses could ensure his real, true presence.

He laughed, and tried to sit up straight under the barrage of kisses.  He gathered her hands into his, and looked into her unbelieving eyes.

“Don’t hold on to me.  I haven’t ascended to my Father yet.”

She was puzzled by his meaning, but too overjoyed at his being really, truly real to mind.  For many years later, she would often recall how exactly not  like a dream it all felt.  She was, of course, astonished by his presence, and it all should have felt quite unreal.  But she was so electrified by his presence, so uncommonly present herself, that she felt more alive and awake than she ever had.  When a dream is remembered, it is as through a mist.  This memory, however, stayed with her in vivid clarity.  She would remember noticing the shape of his bare foot on the grass, and the way his toe twitched at the tickle of a fly.  She would remember a faint breeze catching a wisp of his hair.  She would remember the faint taste of myrrh on his fingers when she kissed them.  She would remember his voice: low and soft and warm.  

“Go to my brothers,” he said.  “Tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’  Tell them.  And tell Peter.”

A moment later, she was laughing and running, filled with the most wonderfully exhilarating kind of fear, the wind drying her tears in happy streams against her cheeks.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Sunday Morning; In a Cave

No light could be seen from inside the cave.  The cold air held the scent of rock and moss and the lingering odour of bitter herbs.  The silence was palpable, hovering in the tomb like the Spirit on the face of the deep.

A body lay on the stone shelf, its unnatural stillness betraying any illusion of sleep.  For all the beautifying shrouds so carefully wrapped around it, and the precious blossoms placed upon the swaddling cloths, this was a corpse.  His friends had done their best to dress the wounds, in some unreasoning and unspoken hope that even in death these wounds might heal, but the reality remained.  It was gruesome.  He looked as though he had been mauled to death, and the truth was not far from it.  It had taken hours to dress his wounds, long enough for tears to give way to silence and the quiet business at hand.  Finally, his mother had wiped the blood from his face.  She caressed his pallid brow, placed the last shroud upon his head, and kissed him through the veil.

There was evening and there was morning, and evening and morning.  The third day.

The cold air of night lingered inside the tomb, and the ground was cool to the touch.  All was still, but for the movement of a beetle, and so silent that its footsteps could be heard as it skittered across the wall.

Then in that silence, a breath.  

Light filled the cave, like slow lightning, and for a long moment cast a deep, black shadow beneath the feet of the beetle.  

The lungs which had sat silent since Friday began to rise and fall like bellows.  The man sat up on one elbow as the white cloths fell gently from his body.  He took a deep draught of crisp, cold air.  He smiled.  The scent of the cave delighted him, especially the scent of myrrh emanating from his burial shroud.  He stood, and he seemed to be clothed in robes made of light itself.  He turned and looked at the burial cloths.  He smiled again, noticing the faint imprint his form and that flash of light had left on them.  The shrouds were wrinkled from the absence of his body, and he remembered something his mother had told him about making his bed.  He folded them neatly and placed them on the stone shelf.  The blossoms which had adorned the edges he arranged in an impromptu bouquet.  The beetle came to inspect them.  He held out his finger and the bug crawled on, and he surveyed the beetle while the beetle surveyed his scars.  The marks, which had seemed so horrible only an hour before, practically glowed with beauty.  

He set the beetle back down, then he turned to the sealed mouth of the cave, and walked through it.  

His face welcomed the sun, and his eyes took in every bright colour of the garden.  Each leaf seemed to be the very invention of green.  Each flowering blossom’s morning dew shone with the glow of a newborn.  Even the ground beneath his feet seemed to blush with the ruddy warmth of a new mother.  The world was alive, re-created, resurrected.  

And as he walked from the tomb, in the cool of the day, the stone rolled back from the crevice of its own accord, and the sun stole into the cave like the dawn of the first morning.  And he looked, and saw that it was very good.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Only Sleeping

He held her hand in both of his own.  It was cold and unmoving, and the blood in her veins was as still as a frozen stream.  He kissed her fingers, and whispered in her ear.  “Little girl, it’s time to get up.”

She blinked, and yawned, and scratched her hair, and spoke in the singing whine of a child in the morning.  “I’m hungry!”

A communal gasp sucked the oxygen from the room, and ten hands covered five gaping mouths.  Jesus laughed.  “Well, get the girl something to eat!”

Her parents, to put it succinctly, just couldn’t get over it, and they smothered her with kisses and tears.

John stood by and watched it all with a thoughtful furrow on his brow.  He approached Jesus quietly, with his youthful sense of decorum, and looked at him with his all-too-serious eyes.

“Master,” he said, ”She…  She wasn’t sleeping.  She was…” and he took an awkward breath, “…not breathing.  She was dead.  I mean…  Everyone here will need to be ritually cleansed.  You were holding her hand.  Her parents were hanging all over her.  We’ve all been in contact with a dead body, Lord.  We’re all going to need to go to the temple for cleansing.”

Jesus held John’s eyes as he placed his hands on the young man’s shoulders.  “John, no one here is unclean.  I told you: She was only sleeping.”