according to the story, it was right around now nearly two thousand years when the women who went to the tomb to anoint jesus discovered the rock rolled away and the body missing. they were met instead by an young man dressed in white who told them jesus was no longer in the tomb - he is risen, said the angel.
with those three little words, the shape of recorded history changed forever. this morning, those three little words will be trumpeted from pulpit and altar across the world. funny how it sounds like a battle cry.
leaving aside the miracle - which i was always perfectly willing to believe - after all, for a man who can walk on water, feed the multitudes and bring back the dead, rising from the dead himself doesn't seem like much of a stretch. but leaving aside the miracle, there was always one little detail that bothered me about the easter story.
if the stone was already rolled in front of the tomb, how did the women expect to get in? especially at dawn, when it was still relatively dark?
i remember asking this question of various priests, nuns and other adults. i remember my mother giving me one of her long convoluted answers, of the sort thomas acquineas would be impressed with, invoking the gods of archaeology, history and the sheer weight of the story itself.
i remember imagining myself THERE, as one of the women (come on, annie, up and at 'em - we got to get the Master anointed before he starts to smell bad), rising from my straw pallet, stumbling around for my sandals in the dark. and every single time the logical question that rose automatically in my mind seemed too self-evident for words.... how are we going to get in? and secondly - what did it matter, if jesus was already dead? as a five, six and seven year i couldn't imagine loving anyone enough to want to go stumbling around in the dark in a cemetery to pour a little oil on a dead body. anyone who loved me, i reasoned, wouldn't expect me to, especially if they were already dead and my life was potentially in jeopardy.
the logical inconsistency of this fundamental detail meant that for me, from a very early age, the entire easter story had an artificality to it that other holidays - like christmas - didn't. but easter is, as my mother always reminded me, the very core of the christian faith and my mother's understanding of catholic doctrine is ferociously complex. almost anything else in the bible could be understood as a metaphor, an allegory. but everything about jesus is rock-solid-true. to reject the belief in a literal resurrection is to reject the truth of all jesus was.
eventually, it was my inability to wrap my mind - puny as it may be - around the concept of a literal resurrection that led me to ultimately reject christianity as it is largely practiced today. unshackling myself from the burden of the irrational has allowed me to examine in the context of jesus's humanity what i believe to be true, to develop, dare i say - a personal Understanding of the man who millions believe walked the earth as Lord and Savior.
a few years ago, right around this time of year, my family and i were reeling under the news that my mother had breast cancer. she had found a lump in her breast right after new year's. one sunday afternoon i was meditating, when i saw jesus step out of my body. a woman entered, who looked like mary, but he turned to me, and said, this is your mother. they embraced, and where her breast touched his chest, i saw two flares of light, and in that moment, i understood that my mother would be fine. he smiled at me as he faded away, and i remember i asked, why is it given to me to know this?
and the little Voice answered, so that you may be absolutely sure of the presence of the Divine in your life.
a few days later, my mother called to tell me there were two lumps, not one. i remembered my vision, and i knew she'd be okay. and she is... to this day.
and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.