The captivating ancient icon of the Three Mary’s Visiting the Empty Tomb after the Earthquake has Rolled Away the Stone and the Witness of the Angel – is a sublime image pregnant with meaning today. I have incorporated the Russian Byzantium original icon of this narrative (sometimes called ‘Angel of the Holy Sepulchre’) with an image of the damaged ruins of the Cathedral of The Blessed Sacrament, Christchurch.
“and lo, there came a great earthquake, for a messenger of the Lord, having come down out of heaven, having come, did roll away the stone from the door, and was sitting upon it,” Matthew 28:2The Body of Christ has gone. There is left only a shroud – a ghost, a breath of His essence, a memory, a half-thought. The Liven Logos has gone. The physical Presence has disappeared. Risen or otherwise? At this point in the narrative – it is unknown. This is a significant moment – it is certainly one filled with fear. It is the very moment after complete dissolution / destruction, yet before any resurrection or rebirth. It is a moment pregnant with the possibility of mind-blowing realizations. In fact, you could say, that because of the fear and the unknown – it is a moment of perfect freedom. The rules of matter, life and death have been abandoned. Faith in physicality has proven false, hope in a Spiritual rebirth is still awaiting. There is only this moment, alive with incredible potential – but only if courage can be mustered…
“…and his countenance was as lightning, and his clothing white as snow”
Christchurch found herself in this position once upon a time not so long ago. In the midst of ruin and destruction there was potential and many possibilities of beautiful new beginnings. Freedom reigned for awhile, and humanity was indeed community. [See our film ‘The Art of Recovery‘]. But Fear caught hold and reigned supreme, and instead of waiting for the dawn of realisation and a new rebirth … we were handed out stricter (old) rules and we allowed others, outsiders, to take control. Courage failed, and now our ‘resurrection’ is very slow, boring and stifled by bureaucracy.
“…and having gone in, they found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, while they are perplexed about this, that lo, two men stood by them in glittering apparel, and on their having become afraid, and having inclined the face to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do ye seek the living with the dead?” Luke 24:5
How do we allow this fear (remember it is just a ‘fear of the unknown’) to live and become reborn into New Life – as Christ has shown us. Lets look at the response of the Three Mary’s a little deeper and how they responded to death, destruction and loss. In the Icon they each appear to respond to the situation differently: Mother Mary grieves in complete abandon and fear for her physical loss, the mother of James comforts her whose need is much greater, with no thought for herself; while the Magdalene makes stern demands and enquiries of the angel/s.
“…”Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” John 20:15
This is the time now, we are the Three Mary’s. Which Mary are you? There are those of us, most of us in fact, who live in constant understated FEAR. We console ourselves with tradition and systems and rules, we fear the past and we fear the future. We promote and evoke apocalyptic thinking and beliefs – these dogmas are possibly the most detrimental of all, giving us permission to inflict mortal damage upon our environment and even to wreck havoc upon our own mortal beings, and the mortal beings of others. Is this the ‘sin’ of the world? Then there are those who live outside of themselves, who are asleep to their own condition as they look always to the EXTERNAL. Perhaps to serve others, thinking that this is the way of peace, in imitation of Christ’s service. Or they concentrate solely on material existence.
Then there are the Magdalene’s, those who SEEK answers, look for solutions, demand a better now, and therefore a better future. Magdalenes actively curate hope, vigourously search for realization. They harness their fear into freedom filled courage – await insight, hope for realization. They do not let their fear turn into anger or wrath, or try to simply forget or ignore it. Magdalene’s embrace fear!
Thus, FEAR directed into HOPE, resting upon a ground of FREEDOM, resurrects true REVELATION. This Mary says “You will TELL ME RIGHT NOW where you have taken him!!” Her question is pure, intense – it demands an answer. She is given one. The teacher is revealed to her first, to the Magdalene alone.
‘Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” ‘
Where the teacher’s revelations lead – I will follow.