Fr. Charles Irvin
Acts 10:34, -37-43; Colossians 3:1-4, Mark 16: 1-7
In Act 1, scene 4 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet we find Hamlet declaring: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” William Shakespeare writing in the late 16th Century had in inkling that moved him to bring us thoughts of realms beyond the world we live in. We are limited… our vision, our intelligence, and our beliefs about reality are limited. Can we definitively claim that there is no reality beyond that which we can see?
In Celtic Britain and Ireland spiritual people spoke of Thin places, places and times where the veil between this world and the world of reality beyond us is thin. When we find ourselves in such thin places we sense the two worlds overlapping and bleeding into each other. Some recent novels have been written about such places, such overlapping encounters with a reality beyond what we can see and experience. Scientists and astrophysicists are writing about the parallel universe theory. Perhaps they should join into discussions with philosophers and theologians who study cosmology. All engaged in such a dialogue would be energized, I am sure.
To discern the difference between an ordinary place and a thin place, one must use a spiritual perspective and be open to a sixth sense, one beyond our natural five senses. In simple terms a “thin place” is a place where the veil between this world and the parallel universe is thin; where the parallel universe is near. Perhaps it is better said that we are nearer to it; the other world is more near. As Hamlet observed: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Mahatma Gandhi in his Spiritual Message to the World in 1931, speaks of this.
“There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses”
With that background let me now take you into today’s Gospel account which is St. Mark’s account of the Resurrection. It begins in the first light, the dawn, of a new day, those moments when light transforms darkness. The dawning is gradual, lest we be overwhelmed and blinded by the light. It is in these moments of diffusion and that the resurrection of Christ dawns upon our world in an event that is extra ordinary, way beyond what is ordinary, beyond our powers of intellect.
We need to note that women were the first to see and experience this event. Later the apostles would be the first to suffer for it. For all of us, however, the stone must be rolled away from our hearts, not so much that Christ may come forth but so that we might enter into the place and time of it, so that we might enter into the experience of the Christ event as it bursts into our world. The Virgin’s womb was opened and so the tomb was likewise opened. Heaven was opened to us.
The women had prepared their spices at the conclusion of the preceding day, the Sabbath of the Mosaic Covenant. Christ rose from the dead on the first day of a new week in a new world, a newly refashioned world. Something beyond us was here, something unheard of and undreamed of before. The myrrh brought by the magi, those mystic earthly kings of old, was now brought to be put to use. It was, however, not to be used. The child who had lain powerless and bound up in His manger had become the Christ who hung powerless and nailed on His cross. The woman who had borne him became the woman who stood under His cross and watched him die. Now she and her companions would be the first to honor Christ in His risen glory. The women entered the tomb; the apostles would soon enter into martyrdom. The women readied their oils; the apostles would soon our Earth with their blood. God’s light was beginning to overcome this world’s darkness… but it was only the beginning.
Who would roll away the stone? For the women, it was already rolled away. A young man dressed in a white robe was sitting in the tomb… a young man, youth entering into manhood, strong and filled with life. God’s new creation is mystically beginning. Man is remade new. Freshness, newness of life, another beginning is at hand. The messenger’s announcement is not only for the women, it is for us as well, perhaps particularly for us.
That stone… what is the stone we are talking about? The one that failed to contain the buried Christ or the one that is at the entrance to our hearts, the one that keeps us from entering into the Christ event? How many have shut their eyes and sealed their hearts so they are unable to experience the glory of the open grave and the emptiness of the tomb?
Who is it that is entombed, Christ or us?
Listen again to the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses”
It is reported that when Christ died on the Cross the veil in Jerusalem’s Temple was torn in two. The veil between this world and the next world was torn in two. He who raised the daughter of Jairus, who raised the widow’s son, and who raised Lazarus from the dead has likewise, by His Father’s command, been raised from the dead. Death no longer holds humanity in its icy grip.
Rising from the dead, Jesus vanquished death. He who took upon Himself our vanquished human nature, a nature subjected to death, in His resurrection vanquished death.
Quoting from the Prophet Isaiah, St. Paul cries out: Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
The joy of today has yet to be brought to fulfillment and completion. Our ancient enemy, the Beast, still slouches toward us intent on devouring us. We do not move from baptism to the rapture without passing through our own valleys of darkness, suffering, loss, and pain. What we do have, however, is the power to overcome any darkness that attempts to blind us and swallow us. We do have the power to roll away the stones over our hearts, to be healed of the scales that cover our eyes, and to have hearts filled with love instead of hate, minds that seek to find the truth rather that to settle for lies. We have, because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the power to be victims no longer…to walk now in the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God. Our spirits can now be young again… young, clothed in white light, filled with energy while announcing to those around us: “He is risen as He said He would.” He is out there in you world. Seek Him, find Him, feast with Him, share life with Him, and witness to His living presence in your life.
Today is Easter. This is a thin place and time. In Christ’s blood God’s world has bled into your world and into mine. When you receive His risen presence in Holy Communion, your world will be taken up into His world. The tomb is empty because our world cannot contain Him now even though paradoxically and mystically He freely lives within us.
Christ is risen… Christ is truly risen… alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!