a small opening in a massive rock at Joshua Tree National Park
The Easter icon sits quietly on my prayer table. The risen Christ, face radiant, but very, very sober, raises his arms in triumph and in benediction. I look carefully and slowly and try to work my way into the aura of the icon. To feel the blessing of the One who stands so solemnly before me. The seconds tick away. I would like to say “the minutes tick away”, but I’m still such a novice at this business of meditative silence and listening. The icon gradually becomes for me an opening, a place where I can, however briefly, step into a world beyond the confines of this skin, these bones. A place where I can experience a deeper world beyond the shallows of my mundane life, a space filled with a love that encompasses my most secret hopes and fears.
The pastor comes to visit, and, as sacred words draw us to a place of dying, rising love, we taste the bread of body broken in the cold and heat of all earth’s sorrow and sin. We sip the wine of holy blood shed for us and for all people And once again, I feel my little world opening to a vastness that stretches through all time and then beyond to mystery of Word that spoke all that is into being. To mystery of Word that became flesh and lived among us, to draw us, unite us to the One who spoke the cosmic light that shattered, and continues to shatter, the darkness all around: the darkness of what happened in Boston yesterday, the darkness that often casts shadows across our fragile lives, the darkness that covers Syria, North Korea, and scores of other troubled places around our world.
The red-bellied woodpecker swoops to the suet that hangs just outside our kitchen window. Black, beady eyes flash under the radiant splash of red that crowns his regal head. I stop whatever I am doing. I stand and watch, transfixed by such beauty, such poise, such burst of joyous color. And once again my small world opens up, opens to the intricate immensity of life pulsing under his wings, a pulsing linked to throbs and rhythms that have been beating through aeons of time and across the vastness of space that soars beyond our tiny world.
Openings. Tiny piercings of the filmy barrier that separates the now from the forever; the mortal from the immortal; this too, too solid flesh from a world of spirit energy bursting just beyond our limited sight. Openings. Grace-filled apertures that call me to a place of wonder, to a place of hope, to a place of realities that often burst the boundaries of mere words.
50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, 51 had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.
He asked for the kingdom of God.
He received instead a lifeless, bloodied, soiled body;
but a body, nonetheless, so, good man that he was,
he took that body and wrapped it in fresh linen;
sprinkled spices of disappointment across the
shroud, then laid the bitter remains of his dreams on a
shelf in the dank darkness of his new rock tomb.
He had been tempted, yes he had, tempted to
simply walk away and leave that corpse on the cross
for others to dispose of, but, surely, he reasoned,
surely this man, disappointing as he turned out to be,
surely he deserved—simply as a human being—a final,
quiet dignity. One more caress for the shrouded
remnants of his dream; one more sigh, and then he left to
close the tomb and seal away forever all his kingdom hopes.
But then…that curious rumor in the air that sent him back to
tidy up his now strange-emptied tomb; and there the lingering
scent of myrrh and aloes, mixed with something
new and strange, ethereal, it seemed, almost like
angel breath; and, too, that mystifying luster
glimmering ever just beyond his sight; those
linen wrappings, stained and stretched across the shelf…
Could it possibly be? Could his cave have been the
womb in which the costly kingdom pearl had been
laid to rest and then had birthed new life beyond this life?
And were his muted actions somehow part of all of that—
his futile disagreement with the Council? his binding of that
mangled body in his linen winding sheet? He hoped, but
sureness hovered just beyond mind’s reach; so quietly he
folded all his questions into the empty creases of the
shroud, and quietly he left his silent tomb.
Yet heart emboldened by that hushed and holy emptiness,
mysterious Presence filling gaps and pauses nestled in the
restless aching of his soul, he asked for rising faith to