I have commented a few times this year that “It doesn’t feel like Easter”. Perhaps, that is because we had no Easter break from school so the weekend is consumed with all the normal end of week/preparing for next week tasks.
Yet, it set me wondering about what is Easter supposed to feel like? Indeed, is it supposed to “feel” like anything at all? We are two thousand years removed from the event but it is a significant part our faith stories. I’m not sure we can even begin to emulate the feelings of those early disciples so at Eastertime we re-capture the significance of the event in a way that is relevant to our personal lives and histories.
Easter has always been a time of new beginnings. Regardless of how the date fell, Easter always felt like the half way point between Christmas and summer. A new season beginning, nature starting to bloom, coming to life reflected everywhere we look. New life is always a joyous occasion, a time for rejoicing and celebration. Easter is depicted with eggs, baby bunnies and spring flowers all signs of new beginnings.
Today’s lectionary reading is John 20:1-18. The passage tells the story of the empty tomb discovered by Mary. Within those eighteen verses a woman who must have experienced a myriad of feelings is portrayed. I can imagine shock and horror, on the discovery of an empty tomb, followed by deep sadness, confusion, unbelief, then as she lingered at the tomb, hope followed by elation, wonder and unbridled joy.
Take a moment to savour Mary’s role. In earlier blogs I have talked about the very important roles given to women in the gospel of John. Mary, his mother, announcing to her son that it was time for the public ministry to begin, the woman wanting healing for her child who revealed to Jesus that the ministry was not only for the Jewish nation but was for all and Mary who anointed Jesus for death. Significant moments.
In this passage a woman is used to reveal another significant event. Mary announces the resurrection. Patriarchy is starting to crumble. One of the most significant seasons in the church’s calendar is announced by a woman. Sadly, patriarchy quickly re-established itself to such an extend that women were largely excluded for the next two thousand years. But this passage does give a glimmer of hope in the words, “Mary announced”. Thankfully, the significance of women’s roles words in the gospels are now often appreciated.
In the text, Mary made two journeys and two announcements. Firstly, she discovered the empty tomb. She ran to find the other disciples. I’m sure this journey would have been full of shock and sadness. She announced to the disciples that the body had gone. They ran to see for themselves, found Mary’s words were true and returned home. Mary lingered at the tomb and grieved. Perhaps there is a lesson in that for when one is facing hardships, not to run away from the grief but to linger a while and see if the situation changes. It did for Mary in an amazing way. She saw a heavenly vision. She spoke to the risen Christ. Her sorrow changed to joy.
She made her second journey. She ran back to the disciples this time with quite a different message. I can imagine the difference in those two journeys. I can imagine the lightness and joy Mary felt as she ran to announce she had seen the Christ. It was a new beginning. New life was shinning through. To announce the change in seasons was a privilege granted to a woman in a time when the testimony of women was not accepted in the courts. In this one woman’s witness patriarchy started to crumble. Good news indeed.