Empty Tomb (Ravenna) (Photo credit: jimforest)
The chocolate egg is full of gilt-wrapped sweets.
The tomb is empty.
For me, Easter has always brought an experience of soaring joy and also of profound disquiet. As a child I enjoyed singing 'Jesus Christ is risen today' with choir and organ and relished chocolate Easter eggs as much for their shiny beauty as for their taste. Sometimes we went to London for the Easter Monday celebration with the Easter bonnet parade and the glittering Pearly Kings and Pearly Queens. Yet at the centre of all the fun and celebration was the Easter gospel, rousing in me the same feelings of fear and astonishment that affected the first witnesses of the resurrection. As a child, I wondered if I understood the Easter mystery. Today, I know that I don't.
At the heart of Easter is emptiness--the empty tomb. Years ago, I brought my parents on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. As a pilgrim discipline, I didn't carry any money and just accepted what my parents gave me. When we visited the Holy Sepulchre, the supposed site of the resurrection, a black clad Syrian priest screamed at me for not giving him alms. It could have been a devastating experience. But my father gazed in my eyes and said to me, "He is not here".
He is not here; He is risen.
I don't understand the resurrection and can't explain it to myself, can't make the unsettling feeling, the disquiet, go away. The resurrection is not just an article of faith, not just a celebration of the rising of Spring from the cold dark of winter--not even simply an enactment of psychological death and rebirth. Easter brings profound disquiet--the disquiet of emptiness. We seek the risen Lord in the place we left him yesterday--in our habits, our beliefs, our ideas, our concepts. And what we find is emptiness. He is not here. Life and Truth cannot be embalmed, cannot be static, cannot be conceptualized, can never be contained in the Known. He is risen, alive in the now, in the freshness we glimpse each Easter. He is here in the disquiet, the not knowing, the simultaneous holding of faith and doubt. This Easter, every Easter, may we meet the unknowing, the mystery of emptiness.