-St. Teresa of Avila’s bookmark.
I have known this experience myself, this past weekend, as my mum reached her 94th birthday. There was no way for any of my family to be with her, and so we each celebrated her from a distance!
The sadness on the faces of grandparents, the pain of those separated from loved ones in aged care, the grieving for those who have died alone and the anguish of families kept apart by borders within, and beyond our country, is the human face of this current lived reality we are all struggling to manage.
I find myself reflecting on the fact that the darkest part of the night is just before dawn, the sun does rise!
Touch is at the heart of our humanity, and its loss is felt both acutely and painfully. Even knowing that deep pain reveals real love, is no consolation when we are in the midst of our suffering. A part of us just wants it to end!
“Faith itself sometimes needs to be stripped of its social and historical encrustations and returned to its first, churchless incarnation in the human heart” Christian Wiman.
Not only do so many of us grieve the separation from family and friends at this time, but as we journey towards Easter, there is the absence of gathering as a faith community, and a sort of ‘empty tomb’ experience in that also.
As Christian Wiman suggests, for some, not gathering in the familiar environment of Mt Carmel Church can feel like a sort of ‘stripping away’ a loss of what we have always known and an uncertainty and even anxiety, in the face of an unknown future.
The account we read from John’s gospel on Holy Thursday, the washing of feet, follows with the words: The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus….Jn 13:23.
Then the scene on Good Friday: Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home. Jn 19:26-27.
Easter Sunday’s gospel, takes us to the empty tomb, where we hear again reference made to this same beloved disciple. ...the other disciple, the one Jesus loved….reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths on the ground, but did not go in. Jn 20:1-9
In my own prayer space within my room in the priory, I have the icon which is a representation of the Beloved Disciple who by scriptural tradition is shown resting on the breast of Jesus, listening to the heart of God. It serves as a reminder that our Christian way of discipleship, is an act of loving friendship which emerges from our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. A friendship that includes blessing, openness, reassurance, comfort and peace. The partial anonymity of the Beloved Disciple invites us to place ourselves in the scene, becoming beloved disciples as well.
“It is God within us that loves God, so seek joy in God and peace within; seek to rest in the good, the true and the beautiful. It is the only resting place that also allows us to bear the darkness.”
The empty tomb experience we all know at some level, during this coronavirus pandemic, can be lived through the eyes of love, the love Jesus spoke of at that last supper: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. Jn 13:34
Only then, real communion becomes possible, even attainable. Herein lies our hope!
We are Easter people and Alleluia is our Song!