Staring into the Empty Tomb

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien

The news is terrible, disheartening, troubling, horrific -choose your adjective; my still-looking-for-a-job Elder Son used the word “shell-shocked” last night, in reference to the troubling news he was reading, and I noted that “shell-shocked” is a phrase I am seeing a lot in my email, where people feel like the whole nation is being “stress-tested.”

People are feeling “shell-shocked” by the national news, the international news; the secular news, the church news. There are experts who are shocked every week by what they do not know. There are Wikileaks and responses. There is war. There is condescension, there are venal truths and venal distortions. There are the sick, and the injured and the much sinned against, and the physically and spiritually trapped, who need prayer, attention, help.

Spend a half-hour reading the headlines and you emerge blinking and dazed. When you are dazed, it is easy to be blind-sided, to make a misstep, and fall into cynicism or worse, despair.

I am right there with you, gang, stumbling around, trying to process all of this information, gleaning bits of wheat where they drop amid all the chaff. The pickings seem very slim right now, and thoroughly mixed in with the choking weeds. To one in a dazed state, they are very easy to miss.

Last night, I admit, I slipped into a bit of despair. Awoke this morning with this running through my head, as it has before:

“Everything” is about nothing.
Everything ended with the sacrifice of the Lamb.
All is consummated.
We are forever and always at the Last Supper, at the Crucifixion, at the Resurrection.
Time ended with the tearing of the veil and the rolling back of the stone.
The rest is illusion and catching up.
There is nothing to be afraid of.

“There is nothing to be afraid of.” I believe it.

And yet, even after praying the Divine Office, which is always my wellspring, even after my beloved Office of Readings and the Morning Prayer, I needed more. I needed new words.

Thankfully, after the readings for mass, I them in the endlessly useful resource that is Magnificat Magazine

The Third Day

The immovable stone tossed aside,
The collapsed linens,
The blinding angel and the chalky guards:All today like an old wood-cut.

The earthquake on the third day,
The awakened sleeper,
The ubiquitous stranger, gardener, fisherman:
Faded frescoes from a buried world.

Retell, renew the event
In these planetary years,
For we were there and he is here:
It is always the third day.

Our world-prison is split;
An elder charity
Breaks through these modern fates.
Publish it by Telstar,
Diffuse it by mundovision.

He passes through the shattered concrete slabs,
The vaporized vanadium vaults,
The twisted barbed-wire trestles.

A charity coeval with the suns
Dispels the deep obsessions of the age
And opens heart-room in our sterile dream:
A new space within space to celebrate
With mobiles and new choreographies,
A new time within time to set to music.
Amos Niven Wilder
(NT Scholar and brother of Thornton Wilder)

It is still Easter, after all, and we are still peering into the empty tomb, and trying to comprehend.

Related:
The Hidden Mass on the Road to Emmaus
To Suffer with Christ and with the Church

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Klaire

    FYI re: the awsome Magnificat Magazine. It’s now online, with an iphone app, and FREE for the month of April.

    [That's great news, Klaire, thanks for letting us know! - admin]

  • Regina

    Praying to Saint Joseph for your son’s success in finding work.

    Thank you so much for all you do.

    [Thank YOU. He's been looking for such a long time -one of the 25 year-olds for whom unemployment is at 20%! -admin]

  • Fuquay Steve

    Fear not. I was in Rome for the week from hell and had not one inkling ( I would have gone batty). I was immersed in the absolute majesty and sacredness of the ‘remnants’ our ancients left to us … the most important of these being the dignity of our fellow travelers. In Rome, the words you once used about the present co-existing with the past and the future came alive for me. Our loving God has provided so many graces to his flock, may these graces be transformed into dedication and growth in all the virtues. We must jump on the broad and strong shoulders of our ancients to deal with the present crisis and future crises, for indeed they have seen it all. God bless you and your family.

  • zmama

    “The rest is illusion and catching up.”

    This is such a wonderful statement.
    Already a believer, I had an experience of seeing behind the veil 22 years ago that shook me to the core and I have never been the same. The daily challenge is to face these day to day realities all the while knowing they are illusions.
    Making a commitment recently to a weekly holy hour is helping me tremendously to face the stressors that seem to be upon us from all sides.

    I will keep your son in my prayers. My husband is in the soon to be obsolete private student loan industry so he is facing a job loss. I am looking at it as a chance for us to have some family time together this summer.

    I believe strongly in the concept of a coming illumination of conscience and I pray everyday that it happens soon so others may see that God is truly real and all else is illusion.

  • CV

    You do a great job of helping us all keep our “eyes on the prize,” Anchoress :-)

    I’ll pray for your son.

  • Jenny H

    In addition to your words which bring comfort, I find it in the words we sing at Mass when the Priest blesses us with holy water.
    I like the ‘Wash us and we will be clean as new snow’. Somehow I think of renewal and all is possible.

  • Dale B.

    Psalm 2 is always a grand truth: “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh!”

    Never despair: God has reserved the final word for Himself.

  • Left Coast Conservative

    Thank you again Anchoress. Your timing is impeccable. . .

  • Russ

    I have boiled my fear down to Psalms 23:1a:
    The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

    I can meditate on that and my fear leaves.

  • Sharon Warren

    Russ….you are so right!

    In 2008, our small construction office “invested” in a framed bible page that begins with Psalm 23 and was part of a remnant of a 1611 copy of the King James Bible that had survived a fire. The proceeds funded a sonogram machine for a pregnancy counseling center. That beautiful scripture page hangs above our photocopier. I’ve always loved that Psalm (as do even “non-practicing” Christians and Jews). But early on it struck me that I can pretty much stop right after, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”. It says it all…”the peace that passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

  • Russ

    Amen! Sharon, the Lord knows that we humans need simple in order to understand. I love where it led you:
    ”the peace that passes all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

  • Robert M

    Thank you for this, and thanks for that wonderful quote from Tolkien, one of the most profoundly Catholic authors of the 20th Century. That quote in particular has always stayed with me — it’s easy to focus on the adventure, Elves, Orcs, wizards, battles etc. but the true essence of the story in many way is in the small moments like that.
    RM

  • Pingback: It is always the third day… « Joyful Papist

  • Stefanie

    As one who ‘directs’ those in RCIA, I keep dwelling on the post-baptismal faces of Easter Vigil. People who due to their past or their upbringing or political affliation or current family situations– who may have had no business being joyful — WERE that night. Time stood still and we stood there with them in the way of God…in timelessness, the timelessness of ecstasy — of knowing you are completely known and loved by God– of being — for perhaps the first time, completely without fear.

    I actually fasted from all news sources during Holy Week. I may still.

  • vw

    Thanks for the link to the Hidden Mass on the Road to Emmaus. Loved it.


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