At Easter we usually gather for family meals. Some of us go away to the bach or holiday house. We gather as parish communities around the new fire of the Easter Vigil and light our candles. We process into the church singing “Thanks be to God” in respond to the celebrant who chants “The Light of Christ.” Many of us attend Easter Sunday Mass. This year our Covid-19 lockdown intensifies the absence of what we usually do.
Instead we are being offered many “virtual” ways of celebrating Easter and connecting us with the richness of the Easter Liturgy as well as inspiring spiritual resources online. Perhaps what Easter 2020 offers us is the experience of absence in a profoundly new way. We can enter into the absence which the mother of Jesus, the women near the cross and the disciples experienced after Jesus spoke his last words. We can ponder our experience of absence from the places and people we usually expect to be with.
We are sheltered from the profound sense of absence of the early disciples because we know the outcome of the Gospel passion story — that Jesus rose. Mary Magdalene and the disciples were in the dark about what was happening. We can so easily dismiss their situation thinking of them as being people of "little faith”. However, we are also inscribed in this text because Mary Magdalene does not reply: “I do not know where they have laid him" but “we do not know where they laid him” (Jn 20:2).
In this Covid-19 pandemic many of our usual certainties have slipped away — “We do not know”. Our once taken from granted activities like work, school, Mass attendance, entertainment, sport and travel are now uncertain. On the other hand, we've probably come to know and experience the blessing of stopping, creativity, exercise, kindness, compassion, connecting and the self-giving of people in essential services.
To bridge the gap in what “we” do not know, John places the life and death-resurrection of Jesus within the widest possible context of the understanding of biblical and ancient cosmologies (worldview). Jesus is arrested in a garden (Jn 18:1) and is crucified, buried and rises in a garden (Jn 19:41) which evokes Genesis creation stories and God’s ongoing work of creation through which a new world emerges.
The resurrection of Jesus is far beyond our horizon. It is a leap into a new way of being which recalls the great mutations of the evolutionary process of the long history of life in the universe. The resurrection of Jesus is like an explosion of light which ushers into being a new way of transformed life. Through dying and becoming, a new world emerges.
We share in this new emergence through our Baptism which is inextricably linked with the Easter Vigil. It is a death and a resurrection — a transformation into new life. The resurrection we experience in our Baptism is not just what happened in the past. My “I” is transformed into Christ acquiring a new being and breadth of existing.
As we experience Easter in this "out of the ordinary" time we might think about the evolving new consciousness of our Baptism through which we share in the Paschal Mystery and live day by day whakawhanaungatanga/making right relationship happen with God, the Earth and people.
©Kathleen Rushton RSM
Image stained glass window at St. Peter’s Church, Albany New York
Published in Tui Motu InterIslands Magazine, April 2020