Holy Saturday Easter Vigil
The arrival of the three women at Jesus’ tomb is symbolic and real at the same time. Across many societies women are often seen as midwives in that they are present at to assist their sisters in labour and eventual birth of a new child. In another sense they are often found accompanying the dying in the last moments of a life.
Thus, in many societies, and particular traditional ones, women often accompany life at its beginning and at its end. This is a pattern present in the gospel account of the life of Jesus too.
In this light there are some wonderful and symbolic moments in this story for us to savour. We see Mary, Salome and Mary Magdalene approaching the tomb of Jesus with but one intention – to carry out the rituals associated with the burial of a body (its final washing, anointing, and dressing) . However, in God’s vision they become heralds of a new reality – a new birth for the world – and those who had arrived expecting to deal with death in its finality, leave as heralds of the birth of new life.
The dawning of a new day, and the arrival of the sun’s light into the day, parallels the dawning of new life for Jesus and for the world. Further, the resurrection of Jesus echoes the first words of God in the creation narrative “Let there be light’. God’s first creative act is magnified and brought to completion in the raising of Jesus so that He might enlighten the world.
Other symbols we might take aside for our own prayer and reflection today are the stone and the angel’s words.
The stone might just represent all those obstacles and barriers that are either placed in our path or which we roll into place. Whatever, the stone can represent all that might seem to separate us from the love of God or block our reception of that love as it flows into our life. Here, as in our own days, God ‘rolls’ such stones away and ensures that any similar barriers hold no power over us nor are they able to prevent God’s love being made available to us.
The words of the angel might serve to remind us that we too are sent out as emissaries of Jesus – we are to announce his presence not merely in Galilee but in our everyday lives. He is to be found in our homes and our relationships and make visible in the life we lead. Our values, out attitudes and ultimately our actions will reveal his presence again and again. The world need not look amongst the dead or see Jesus merely as an historical character. Through our witness he is able to be seen alive and present in our world today.
May Easter Light shine on us, illuminate our way forward and guide our proclamation and witness.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.