Easter Vigil: ‘Mother of all Vigils’


Women come to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body, but he is not there. Instead, an angel tells them, “Do not be alarmed … he is not here, he has been raised.” But they flee in fear and bewilderment. ~ Mark 16:1-8


 

Three women at the empty tomb artist unkown

Three Women at the Empty Tomb, artist unknown

In Leonid Andreyev’s short story “Lazarus,” many people came to see the man who had been raised from the dead. After they have seen Lazarus, however, they wished that they had not. When they peered into his eyes, they peered into the cold, blackness of the grave. They saw nothing except hideous death grinning back at them mockingly. Raising Lazarus from the dead was not a resurrection to new life but the resuscitation of a corpse. Andreyev’s story answers the question posed to us in the Exultet at the Easter Vigil. “What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer?” Nothing! If the darkness of death is the last and irrevocable word on life, then does life have any ultimate meaning? If this earth is a dead-end street, then life is a journey going nowhere.

A few months before he died, C. S. Lewis wrote the following in a letter to a friend: “Think of yourself as a seed patiently wintering in the earth; waiting to come up a flower in the Gardener’s good time, up into the real world, the real waking. I suppose that our whole present life, looked back on from there, will seem only a drowsy half-waking. We are here in the land of dreams. But cockcrow is coming. It is nearer now than when I began this letter” (An Anthology of C. S. Lewis: A Mind Awake, 187).

Saint Mark’s gospel ends with the story of the empty tomb (16:1-8). In this passage, the women encounter not the resurrected Christ but the empty shell of death that points beyond this world, an empty tomb that cannot hold captive the Author of Life. At the Easter Vigil, we stand in darkness, like the women who stood before the empty tomb. All we know at this point is that, “He is not here,” and must await the proclamation, “He is risen!”  

~ A Meditation by Fr. Marc Foley, O.C.D.

Christos Anesti!  Alithos Anesti!

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