Poem co-written by myself and Bro. Anthony Zuba, OFM Cap.
A year of Good Friday fears.
A year of Holy Saturday tears.
A year of recycled sorrow.
Dare we imagine a different tomorrow?
There is something about this Easter
that feels close to the first Easter,
when Mary of Magdala,
heart wrung dry by dole and doubt,
stepped out of her house
while it was night
to walk to the site of Jesus’ tomb.
That day, the third since God had failed,
Mary knew not what the day entailed.
She trekked through that inky black air,
moving forward because she cared.
Imagine that day. Even we who believe have to hesitate.
Something about Mary’s uncertainty resonates with us:
When you die, where do you go?
When life as we know it dies, where does it go?
Still we don’t know what will happen
to us, to the ones we love,
or to our community,
in this year or the next,
and yet we care … deeply
The weight of the unknowing
can feel as massive as a stone,
like the rock that shrouded in gloom
Jesus’ body in the tomb.
Our earth struggles to breathe;
our neighbors struggle to eat;
advertisements steal our attention;
we live in a deficit of connection.
Upon these heavy things we have looked, but not seen them;
listened, but not heard them;
touched, but not felt them.
They have weighed us down. They have entombed our lives.
Our earth is like a late winter garden, unhoed,
and I see now there are weeds and leaves
to be dug out
to make space
for new seeds.
Dead matter, slick muck, and slime.
These layers glaze over the earth;
they harden the garden turf.
Although the soil beneath stays softly thick,
how will daffodils turn their trick
and in due season rise?
Likewise, as I walk through the woods,
littered with leaves from trees,
how will new shoots
ever make it through
layers like these?
I don’t know.
Nature keeps secrets.
Mary of Magdala
did not know how she would
push her way through
the layers of sadness
that cluttered her soul,
halted in quiet earth, with nowhere to go,
nowhere to grow.
And still she rises
before the start of day,
stepping out by twilight
to wind her way,
walking by tombs
while her soul feels gray.
As she comes to the tomb,
she sees the stone has been rolled away;
she stops and stares—at what? At where?
the body of her healer—not there.
Panic and distress
over bodies removed from our sight and out of touch:
As we continue to physically isolate,
maybe more than ever we can relate
to the sprinting, flailing, crying,
as Mary runs away
to tell someone
what has been done.
She pounds on the door:
He’s not there anymore!
Startled awake, two disciples take
nothing as they fly with Mary
down the strait of graves,
down the state of grace,
dazed, back to that place.
To infamy, to Calvary,
where we desired sacrifice, not mercy.
The disciples enter the tomb.
Numb, struck dumb,
They don’t understand at all what has happened.
No body! One more loss to bemoan!
They don’t know, and so, they return home.
However, Mary lingers there.
She figures at least here,
she is nearer to the one
who stirs her
from her winters.
Amidst the cold breeze of grief,
a figure asks her, the bereaved.
“Why you are crying?”
In the guise of a gardener, Christ asks her this,
creating space for Mary to name her truth.
Christ pays attention to the peaty layers
covering Mary’s soul,
seeing their potential for
for becoming something fertile,
out of which
ferns will unfurl.
Christ digs into the damp and compact dirt
of our lives, the grief and hurt,
and trusts that it just might help us to survive.
It’s then that Mary sees:
She is in a garden,
with a gardener.
A gardener who knows
what it is to wait
as seeds send forth
like the roots of Mary’s heart
as she stays there
the One who brings fruit.
Mary waits, heart-struck, soul-struck, standing outside time,
her soiled heart,
her sandy instability,
and her muddy desires entwined
with the strong roots of arboreal love.
We can wait with wonder and look without despair.
There is more to the garden than appears to be there.
As the rising sun warms my face,
I remember the days we have held Easter vigil
while clouds have obscured this dawning place.
Still we gather on Easter morning;
still we trust that
rain chases us indoors,
a new day will dawn upon our shores.
In spite of fears, in spite of tears,
in spite of harrowing peers into perdition.
The agonizing night of unknowing gives way
to daylight, to showings of fruition.
And so with faith, despite the distance,
I proclaim the truth, with an insistence,
with you, with Mary,
with all the saints who were, who are,
and who are to come:
Christ is here. Christ is risen.
The sprout of love springs up with resilience.