Sunday April 17, 2022
The sun has not yet risen. It’s Sunday morning. A small group of Jewish women straggle along a path towards a cliffside cemetery outside the city walls. Gravel crunches under their sandals. Their breath makes little clouds in the chilly morning air.
They don’t talk much. They did all their talking while they imprisoned by the Sabbath laws that prevented them from doing any work on the seventh day of the week.
So they couldn’t go out to offer last rites to the man who had been killed on Friday, to anoint his still and stiffening body with oils and ointments, to prepare it for the long sleep from which no one awakened.
They had done all their talking during the enforced confinement of the Sabbath. They had talked about their growing relationship with this man. This God-like man.
The first pearly light of dawn lined the eastern horizon as they shuffled along the path to the tomb..
The only thing they talked about was how they would be able to open the tomb. If they would be able to open the tomb.
But when they got there, the tomb was open. Empty. The soldiers guarding it had run away.
The Easter sun rose over the horizon, its glare shining into their eyes, blinding them.
I know how this story ends. I’ve heard it every year for 80 years. Because it’s written in the Bible. Portions of it are read every Easter.
Mark’s gospel leaves the story just where I did, two paragraphs ago – the grieving women find the tomb empty. They leave it in fear and despair.
Luke and Matthew add some detail. An angel, or a stranger, tells the women that the person they love is not there. He is alive, in a new way.
Only John’s gospel adds the story of one of those women, Mary known as the Magdalene, personally encountering that person who is not dead, after all.
I know how that story ends.
The sun has not yet risen. It’s Sunday morning. A small group of Ukrainian women creep from the underground bunker where they have been imprisoned for the last few days. Even underground, they could feel the earth tremble aa bombs showered on the city above them.
They had been sent by their men into an old wine cellar, with mouldy brick arching over above their heads, for their safety. The men stayed up top to defend their city.
And the bombs kept falling.
The single lightbulb that drove back the darkness of the cellar flickered every time another bomb exploded. Every time another historic building collapsed. Every time another powerline snapped.
Huddled together for support and comfort, they talked through the nights about what was happening to them. To their country. To their men, vulnerable in the open.
Then, in their overnight vigil, silence. Silence in their bunker – they had talked themselves out. And silence overhead – the bombs had stopped.
So they opened their doors and ventured up to the streets.
The first pearly light of dawn lined the eastern horizon as they stumbled up into the streets..
Their breath made little puffs of mist in the chilly morning air. Gravel crunched beneath the soles of their sneakers. Gravel that had been concrete. That had been walls, and sidewalks, and parking garages. The streets were littered with blocks and bricks and bodies.
But aside from debris, the streets were empty. Silent as a tomb.
They can see no men. Anywhere.
The Easter sun rises over the horizon, its glare shining into their eyes, blinding them as they look, desperately, for survivors.
I don’t know how this story ends.
Maybe the men are dead, corpses crushed by falling walls, incinerated by raging fires, vaporized by high explosives.
Or maybe some men appear out of the ruins of buildings. They struggle over the piles of rubble. They cough in the clouds of dust.
And some of the women see their husbands, their lovers, their fathers or sons, and call their names and run to them and cling to them and sob with sheer joy and relief. Their dead are alive after all. They have been resurrected.
They’d call it a miracle!
But some of the women will not find their husbands. There will be no angels, no strangers dressed in white, to offer re-assurance. They have no solace, no consolation, no comfort, no happy ending.
No, I don’t know how this story ends.
I know only that the 2000-year-old story is being endlessly re-enacted. Somewhere. Every day.
Copyright © 2022 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write email@example.com
I didn’t get a great deal of mail about last week’s column on the apology by Pope Francis, and it varied from Vera Gottlieb’s terse “I have no use for any religion” To Steve Roney’s extensive defence of Catholic actions.
Miriam Bowles: “I get very angry when the term ‘unmarked graves’ is used. Kamloops people knew the graves were there, and I wonder why no one asked them about it before?? They were not unmarked at one time...First nations used wooden crosses, and of course they didn't last...
“As for the Pope's apology...I believe it was hollow, as one person said. If he was truly sorry, he'd have come to Canada and apologized to the people directly...
“Otherwise, I found the information about the church and sin very interesting.”
Wayne Rosin: “I note your reference to ‘Ground-seeking radar identified close to a thousand bodies buried in unmarked graves on lands around those schools’, and wish to correct that popular misconception. Ground-penetrating radar can only locate ground disturbances and cannot locate human remains or burials per se.
“Without actual evidence, it is inappropriate to add credibility to such speculation, and doing so merely continues to fan the flames of division within our society rather than pursue actual reconciliation. Certainly, abuses suffered can never be condoned, but even if human remains are discovered, (for those who have not been otherwise located), is it reasonable to expect that grave markers that may have been placed a hundred years ago, which would most likely have been made of wood, would remain intact today?”
Bob Rollwagen: “Let’s hope the Pope gets it right when he comes to Canada. He has one last chance to be totally honest.”
Brent Bokma asked, “Where do you come by the reference ‘sinless church’?”
JT: It’s a simple equation. If Christianity insists that Jesus must have been sinless, and the church is the body of Christ, then the body of Christ must also be sinless. Regardless of what it may have done.
Steve Roney (part of a longer letter): “You are wrong on the recent papal apology being historic, and wrong on thinking the Catholic Church ever considered itself ‘sinless.’
“Far from this being the first papal apology, John Paul II alone issued over 100 formal apologies for supposed Catholic misdeeds. This is not even the first papal apology for the residential schools. Pope Benedict apologized to an aboriginal delegation in 2009. For this reason, the current apology is not historic, and there is no reason to believe it will lead to reconciliation. It’s all been done before.
“Ground-penetrating radar has not identified any bodies of any students at residential schools. It has identified some possible grave sites in the general vicinity. No bodies have been found, after these many months. We can of course assume that some students in the residential schools died. As did children in any school in those days, or at home.
‘You quote Jeremy Bergen: ‘The Pope did not acknowledge that the church as an institution embraced assimilationist policy in its decision to run the schools.’
It is a good thing he did not, because this would be a lie. The problem with the residential schools is that they discouraged assimilation. This was pointed out by their American founder, Richard Henry Pratt. The obvious approach, if the plan had been to assimilate, would have been to integrate the Indian children to the provincial day schools.
‘The Catholic Church was often happy enough to go along with this — because they saw the secular society as relatively depraved. It was, many believed, better for Indian souls to remain apart. Indeed, Catholic missionaries played a main role in recording and preserving Indian languages, lore, and culture.”
If you want to comment on something, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or just hit the ‘Reply’ button.
To subscribe or unsubscribe, send me an e-mail message at the address above. Or subscribe electronically by sending a blank e-mail (no message) to email@example.com. Similarly, you can un-subscribe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can now access current columns and seven years of archives at http://quixotic.ca
I write a second column each Wednesday, called Soft Edges, which deals somewhat more gently with issues of life and faith. To sign up for Soft Edges, write to me directly at the address above, or send a blank e-mail to email@example.com
And for those of you who like poetry, please check my webpage .https://quixotic.ca/My-Poetry If you’d like to receive notifications about new poems, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or subscribe yourself to the list by sending a blank email (no message) to email@example.com (If it doesn’t work, please let me know.)
To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think some of these links are spam.)
Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.
I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures. Her Thanksgiving presentation on the old hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, Is, well, beautiful -- https://www.traditionaliconoclast.com/2019/10/13/for/
Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)
ALVA WOOD ARCHIVE
The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns