How quickly he slipped away. He left them far too soon; he left them fearful and in hiding, he left them in a state of loss and bereft of a future.
He left the tomb empty, and no note of explanation. Mary of Magdala, recognizing him, reached out—and he would not let her touch him. “Go. Tell. ” he said to her, and he was gone. Other post-resurrection appearances were similar. He appeared, had a brief and potent exchange with them, then disappeared. The couple traveling to Emmaus talked at length with him, but did not recognize him till they broke bread with him, whereupon he vanished. He appeared at least twice to those who gathered behind locked doors, and made breakfast for them as they fished. And he vanished. He sent them out to preach the Gospel, and with a promise to be with them until the end of time, vanished.
Our ritual celebration of Easter is tangible and rich, the Divine Mystery so present in sign and symbol. The whole Triduum is suffused with a deep sense of presence—ours to Christ, Christ to us, that mystery of extraordinary love and selflessness, renewed again. The igniting of the New Fire, the lighting of the Paschal candle, the tapers spreading flames, the chapel gradually coming to full glow. And then, the Exultet: “ Rejoice heavenly choirs! Rejoice O earth in shining splendor, radiant in the brightness of your king! Christ has conquered, glory fills you!” Our assembly resounds with joy. We celebrate and go forth awash in glory, a newly created Easter People. Jesus Christ is risen today, alleluia!
Departing , we have to pull on winter coats. Yes. It’s Northern Ohio. We walk out into an April snow, on ground hard and frosted, the green blades struggling to rise, their blooming deferred again. The immediate chill of contrast: the brightness of the ritual versus the dark and cold. And before I’m home, there’s already doubt. The stubborn winter is everywhere, I think. It’s been centuries, and we’re still lost in pain and fear and hatred. Tomorrow’s paper will feature an Easter greeting, an illustration on the front page, perhaps, but the rest will be the usual, or worse—wars, starvation, refugees, the misery we humans inflict on each other.
I admit it—the joy and hope of Christ’s Resurrection in me can slip so quickly. Like the couple on the road to Emmaus, I ask Jesus Risen “Are you the only one around here who hasn’t heard the endless bad news? How our world anguishes, groans, her people still enslaved in darkness? We had hoped there would be brighter light and love by now, that your resurrection would transform the face of the earth. Is it, are You, True?”
Jesus patiently explains to me, again, the Easter truth: vanishing does not mean withdrawal or abandonment. His Rising is a vast explosion, sending shards of his shining presence into all creation, expanding the Incarnation—the precious entanglement of humanity and God– far beyond any human hope or dream can reach; setting the Spirit free to keep the promise alive, to ignite and unite and delight us, “Eastering” in and through us, making music out of our groaning, and dancing out of our stumbling. Our very human doubting and believing are, in the Spirit’s power, both elements of transformation—of us and of all creation. We sang it. “Love is/will come again, like wheat arising green.” Or the plucky daffodils of Northern Ohio. Do I hear an “Alleluia?”