Saturday, 19 April 2014

From Nothing to Everything: An Easter Reflection

I was recently sent the following on Easter . It struck a chord with me. It got me thinking of the empty tomb, the first symbol of Easter; it got me thinking of love once again coming to life from the emptiness; it got me thinking of the journey from nothing to everything.

"The Tomb is Empty" by Carl Scovel

If the truth of Easter has eluded you, maybe the simple wisdom of this story will bring the wonder of the holiday into your heart.

"An Episcopal Bishop once told me a story about Easter that has stayed with me for many years. It seems that a fourth grade religious education teacher in the Alabama church that he served was trying to explain the Easter story to her children and told them the story of the empty tomb. Then she gave each of them a plastic shell, the kind that pantyhose used to come in. She asked the children to return next Sunday with something in that shell that reminded them of the empty tomb.

On the next Sunday they opened their eggs. One had a flower, one had a tiny felt bunny, one had a small picture of Jesus. Eventually they came to a boy who was mentally retarded. He was older than most of the children because he had been held back for two years. He knew it and the other children knew it. They were uncomfortable with him and avoided him, occasionally mocking him behind the teacher’s back.

When his turn came, he opened his shell and there was nothing inside. The other children snickered. The boy said something rather incoherent, trying to explain his presentation, and the teacher listened carefully to him. Then she looked up to the others and said, “He means the empty tomb.” The boy, of course, had gotten it.

The empty place is the first site and symbol of Christian faith, an absence rather than a presence, and with that space and absence comes a sense that the world is not as simple as we imagine it. For all its laws and patterns, the world still has surprises.

Who could have guessed that a community of martyrs and witnesses would come out of this tiny ragtag group of confused, abandoned followers? Who would have guessed that a man who was choked to death on a stake would become the center of a worldwide religion? Who would have guessed that the power of his message lives today?

Who could have guessed what would come out of an empty tomb?"

This is what Easter is built upon the empty tomb. In the account in Mark’s Gospel when the women go to the tomb and find it empty they flee in terror and say nothing. The real miracle is in what follows, the power of love that comes to life from nothingness, from the emptiness.

This is something we can all surely relate to at one time or another this sense of losing everything, of everything being lost. This though is the essence of the whole Easter Mythos that love can once again grow from the nothingness, from the emptiness. That abundant love can once again grow in our own hearts and our own spirits and that we can incarnate this in our own lives. That this love can be poured out onto our world that so desperately needs it, as much today as when they found the tomb empty some two thousand years ago.

This is our task I believe, our religious task, to once again bring the love that was so evidently present in the life of Jesus alive once again in our oh so human flesh. We can do it, we do not have to be afraid, we do not need to flee in fear, we just need courage gentle courage and this will sustain us. We just need to fill the empty tomb with that abundant love that is present in all life, fill it to overflowing and then let it pour out in all of life…

Easter is a symbol of hope, but I do not see it as an end point. Easter as I see it is the beginning of hope. It is the symbol of love once again coming into life. Carl J. Nelson speaks nearly perfectly of this in the following reflection.

“The Dividend’s of One’s Hope” by Carl J. Nelson

"If nothing else. Easter is a season celebrating the dividend’s of one’s hope. It is not a celebration of hope itself, but of its first fruits – early blooming flowers, budding trees, returning birds. Endlessly without fail, the natural world renews itself following the barrenness of winter.

And too, in the less tangible world of human emotions, we are periodically renewed. Out of tragedy often comes a chastened spirit; out of hate, an ability to love. Beneath the myth and ceremonies of every land and culture, this seems to be the message of the season. Take heart! For hope inevitably will bring about a springtime in the human spirit."

There is something deeply universal about Easter. There is something in its spirit that can speak to all people in every culture at every time and in every place. It points to those moments in all our lives when something deeper within us comes to life, or perhaps it comes back to life. If we truly enter into what is at the core of Easter, its spirit, it can bring us to a deeper understanding of life right here, right now, in our world.

It is possible to celebrate Easter without having to believe in the actual resurrection of the body of Jesus, which is of course the traditional Christian view. You can believe in Easter without having to accept the uniqueness of Jesus’ resurrection. There is something deeply universal in the spirit of Easter that has the capacity to awaken everyone’s spirit regardless of whether or not they believe every aspect of the Gospel accounts.

Easter can also be understood as the festival of the renewal of life that comes at springtime; Easter can be seen as the resurrection of the earth after the seeming death of winter. These last few weeks you surely have all felt powerfully this deep sense of the renewal of life. The other evening I could both feel and smell this powerfully in the air. There is a real electricity in the air at springtime. Now of course the renewal of the seasons is recognised in the pre-Christian roots of our Easter celebrations. The word Easter is after all derived from “Eostre” the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of spring; the goddess of fertility and renewal. Rather like much of the Christmas rituals and traditions many of our Easter ones are a mixture of Christian and Pagan principles.

The Easter “mythos” can also be seen as the triumph of the human spirit over all that would crush it, even death itself. This triumph also has pre-Christian roots, such as the Jewish “Passover” which of course Jesus and his disciples were commemorating on what has become known as Maundy Thursday. In Latin speaking countries Easter is known as “Pascha” or similar words that are derived directly from “Pesach”.

Jesus’ resurrection is a powerful example of love overcoming death; a perfect example of the spirit of love living on even after physical death. I think it is impossible to argue that the spirit that was in Jesus did not live on after his bodily death. The spirit of love that incarnated in his life has survived all that we have done to it these last 2,000 years as we have remembered him, rather badly.

All love lives on, all we have to do to bring it once again to life is remember those who have touched our hearts and souls. What has been bound into one another’s hearts cannot be unbound. Love is stronger than death. This for me above everything else is the universal “mythos” that is at the root of Easter. A festival for everyone.

Easter is for everyone, all we need do is open our hearts to the universal “mythos” and its spirit will once again be born in us.

I believe that it is our task to once again bring that love to life. Love born again from that empty tomb. This truly a journey from nothing to everything. I believe that it is our human task to bring life to life in our world right here right now, to begin build the commonwealth of love, right here right now...

It begins in our own empty tombs, let us roll our own stones away and let love once again incarnate in our lives...In all that we feel, all that we think, all that we say and all that we do...

I will end this little blogspot with a prayer by Victoria Weinstein

“Being the Resurrection”

"The stone has got to be rolled back from the tomb again and again every year.
Roll up your sleeves.

He is not coming back, you know.
He is not coming back unless it is we who rise for him
We who lay healing hands on the reviled and rejected like he did
on his behalf --
We who rage for righteousness in his insistent voice
We who love the sinner, even knowing that "the sinner" is no farther off than our own heartbeat

He will not be back to join us at the table
To share God's extravagant banquet
God's love feast, all are invited, come as you are
And so it is you and I who must feast for him
Must say the grace and break the bread and pass it to the left
and dish up the broiled fish (or pour the wine) and pass it to the right.
And treat each one so tenderly
as though just this morning she or he made the personal effort
to make it back from heaven, or from hell
but certainly from death
to be by our side.

Because if by some miracle (and why not a miracle?)
He did come back
Wouldn't he want to see us like this?
Wouldn't it be a miracle to live for just one day
So that if he did, by some amazing feat
come riding into town
He could take a look around and say
"This is what I meant!"

And we could say
it took us a long time...
but we finally figured it out.

Oh, let us live to make it so.

You are the resurrection and the life."



  1. Thank you for your insight, Danny. Isn't that just what dictators do?! If you lead opposition, they torture and kill you, and they even take away your dead body so your friends cannot find it. You are one of the Disappeared.

    And you, Danny, you bring to life the moment in the Gospel. Behind the sanitary mask of the church lectern I never heard the tears of deepest bereavement in Mary's words before 'I don't know where they have laid him'.