The celebration of Easter (which was spectacular with choir and brass) often seems so out of character with the Biblical story we read. Much of the reading from the Gospel of John (20:1-18) is filled with intriguing elements that seem counter to the joy we experience in worship. While Mary does get to meet the risen Jesus and witness to the disciples: “I have seen the Lord,” much of what builds to those dominant moments is worth a contemplative consideration.
The story begins at my favorite part of the day “…while it was still dark.” I write this, latte nearby, while it is still dark. I’m convinced the Spirit whispers much more often in the darkness of the early morning (at least to me).
While I was at a conference on the Sabbath, I learned that according to the people of the Jewish faith, the day begins at sundown. (I probably learned this in seminary but promptly forgot.) One of our first acts of the new day is to go to bed and sleep. This means that the period of darkness early in the morning is actually the midpoint of the day. The latency of the day, building throughout the darkness of the night, is now ready to emerge in the light of day.
I believe that because Mary is up and attentive while “…it was still dark…,” that she has a contemplative bent. She is someone attuned to the whispers of the Spirit. She obviously did not know what was about to unfold, but she was receptive and present and courageous enough to not run away like Peter and the beloved disciple. Rather than the darkness scaring her, she had learned to befriend the darkness. She would never have seen Jesus otherwise and we wouldn’t be celebrating Easter the way we do.