The Bafflement of Resurrection
I was going to tell you my story, but waves of pain drowned my voice. I tried to utter a word but my thoughts became fragile and shattered like glass. Even the largest ship can capsize in the stormy sea of love, let alone my feeble boat which shattered to pieces leaving me nothing but a strip of wood to hold on to. … Like my thoughts, I die and rise again each day so how can I doubt the resurrection? Tired of hunting for love in the world, at last I surrender in the valley of love and become free.
But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping… He was gone. Less than three days ago, she touched his body one last time, the skin, now caked with blood and dust and the smell of death, the hair and the fingers, his limbs, now so lifeless… The last caress of the hand putting on the fragrant oils of anointment. This is it then… This is it. She was kneeling by the body, still worshipping its every inch, giving it over, surrendering it to death…
I don’t know for certain what it must have felt like, as I kneel by the Stone of Unction in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and smell the fragrant oils oozing out in the middle of the night. I caress the stone, feel its slightly moist surface, think how magical and yet terribly mundane it is that the fragrance is still coming through two thousand years later, as if even the stone itself cannot give up the memory of love.
And now she stands at the tomb weeping — for even his body is there no more. Where is he? Where have you put him? She is lost, looking around feverishly, where is the body, so that was it, that was the last time, but we have to find him, give him a proper burial, I was going to come to the grave every day, so I will never see him again…
Frantic thoughts rushing through the mind all at once, despite all the faith and the healing and the holiness that was now hers.
“Why are you weeping?” Two strangers appear.
“They have taken away the Beloved of my soul, and I don’t know where they have laid him,” she sobs. “Do you know where he is?” She just wanted to worship the dead, because that was all she had left. And now even death is taken away from her.
And when she sees another man asking her why she is weeping, she thinks he is the gardener.
“On my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him but I found him not. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but found him not. The watchmen found me as they went about in the city. “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” Scarcely had I passed them when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him and I would not let him go…”
(Song of Songs, 3:1-4)
“…O Most Splendid! O Light of the World! My soul is ill from love of you. Please, my God, please heal her by showing her the beauty of your light. Then she will be strengthened, and she will be healed, and she will have eternal joy. O Most Faithful! Arouse your mercy! Have pity on your beloved child, for how much, how much have I longed to gaze upon your mighty splendour. Only this my heart desired: have pity and do not conceal Yourself. Be revealed, my Beloved, and spread the canopy of your peace over me. Illumine the earth with your glory; we will rejoice and be glad in you. Hurry, Beloved, for the time has come.”
(Yedid Nefesh, Rabbi Elazar Azikri, 1533-1600)
To have and to hold? Could she touch him? Will it be finally what it should be…?
The world as she knew it collapsed, death and destruction were no more, and she ran to him.
“…I held him and I would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother’s house…”
(Song of Songs)
He waves her to stop, to not approach him, “Do not cling to me”. Do not touch me– but… they were healed by touching him… “Do not cling to me… For I have not yet ascended to my Father, to my God and theirs…” And then what?
Once again nothing is as we imagined it to be, is it? For she is still here and nothing is as it could have been for everyone else, no future and certainty, instead it is God’s way, something incomprehensible.
This resurrection is a weird resurrection… No fanfare and glory, and a handful of scared outcasts as witnesses, and then he disappears out of their sight, and they end up dying for their belief, or, like John, the beloved disciple, or Mary, spend the rest of their lives alone and in exile. But it is not they who resurrect, it is God. We let go of our own control the moment we let him run the show. From now on, everything is weird… because this is more than human mind can fathom and human strength can do. Sometimes trusting is the only way to get through that which can no longer be explained or neatly ordered.
Resurrection turned out to be an even more incomprehensible affair than the crucifixion. Because in a sense, our world prepares us for crucifixions, but there is nothing to prepare us for the resurrection. It is giving up power totally into the hands of God, but not only that — it’s witnessing a totality of change, everything becoming new, your plans and concepts dissolving. At least, with the crucifixion, there was a dead body to touch one last time. And now, what is happening now? There is no body, there is no certainty… we don’t know resurrection. It is not known to the human mind. There is nothing to describe it. Nothing to prepare you for it. No explanations for the “do not cling”. Nothing your mind can grasp. It’s almost easier to worship the tomb, the certainty of death.
The pilgrims line up at the tomb, and the priests hold services there all night, and the line never ends on Golgotha to worship the place where Jesus suffered on the cross. Every Good Friday they worship the piece of wood that used to be the cross. But how do you worship the resurrection?
“Do not seek for the living among the dead. He is not here”
And this is what the angels were saying. Do not worship the graves and the dead bones. What you have now is beyond words and beyond mind and beyond religion. What you have now is Life itself. And it will not be constrained into your little world.
Get out of here, and never come back. I have taken death away from you, I have taken certainty and definitions away from you, and from now on you will live forever in the bafflement of the resurrection.
And Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”.
I am told she had moved to what is now France and lived in a grotto in Provence for thirty years, alone, sustained by the angels in her own valley of love, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff, waiting for him to return, until she was reunited with the Lover of her Soul…
Lovely is the month of Vaisakhi, When the bough turns green again, And the bride awaits her Beloved, With her eyes ever watching the door: Come, my Beloved, and show me Thy kindness, It is Thee alone who can carry me safely Across the turbulent waters of life. Without Thee I have as little value as a shell. Who can estimate my worth if I am pleasing to Thee? O Lord, to me You are never far away: I believe that Thou art living in me, And I have realized Thy presence within.
(Sikh sacred scriptures, Guru Nanakh)
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age