My Dear Friends,
There is an ancient story which is told about a Rabbi who gathered all his students together very early in the morning while it was still dark. He told them to pay attention; he had a very important question to ask them. The question was this: How could they tell when the night had ended and the day was on its way back?
One student asked, “Could it be when you see an animal and can tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?” Another asked, “Could it be when you look at a tree in the distance and can tell whether it is a fig tree or a peach tree?” Neither of these was the right answer, and other students continued with different guesses. The Rabbi finally answered his own question. “Night has ended when you look on the face of any man or woman and she is your sister and he is your brother. If you cannot do that, no matter what time it is, it is still night.”
We tend to associate Easter and Resurrection with brightness and light, but all the gospel writers agree that resurrection took place “while it was yet dark”. Through our celebration of Holy Week and Easter we are attempting to make present this simple truth, upon which all our celebrations are based, that light may shine in the darkness we experience, and that resurrection occurs in the dark.
The faith we celebrate is an invitation out of darkness into the light of the risen Christ. In that darkness, and in that light, we see him and recognise each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is that light which enables us to tell that night is ending, and that day is on its way back.
Holy Week and Easter begin in the dark. Easter Day itself begins in the tomb. The story of Easter begins with those who had been written off as lost causes – the disciples. When they reach the tomb they find it easier to believe in the night-time activities of graveâ€‘robbers, than in the activity of a God who refuses to let death and darkness have the last word. We have a picture in Saint John’s Gospel of the two disciples, Peter and John, running into the tomb. When they get there what Peter sees is discarded grave-clothes; John sees evidence of new life. His is a love and faith which sees in the dark.
From Palm Sunday to Easter Day we proclaim our trust that the wonder and love of faith may be experienced in the dark. In that faith we may answer the question of the old Rabbi. We can tell when the night is going and the day is on its way back when we can look on the faces of our brothers and sisters and see something extraordinary – we can see that Christ is there, living a new and risen life.
This Holy Week and Easter we may rejoice that the presence and light of Jesus shines even in the night, and that even in the dark we may see him and know him.