I wonder about those first moments of Resurrection.
When we catch up to the Risen Christ in the Gospels, he’s already out and about. He’s with Mary in the garden. Rendezvousing with his disciples en route to Emmaus. Visiting his friends in the upper room. Cooking up some breakfast fish on the seashore.
But what about those very first moments? In the darkness of the tomb, God’s quiet victory unfolds. In the darkness of lost hope, the light flickers on again — and suddenly, the world is awash in sunlight.
Does Jesus recognize himself in that moment? Does Jesus hold up his hands, staring into those wounds — the wounds that appeared all-so-final — in utter wonder and awe at the mystery of God?
The Resurrected Christ is transformed. His friends do not recognize him at first. I wonder what he sees in himself in that first moment.
I imagine the angel appearing. The stone is rolled back, but the darkness of the early morning remains. And then: light.
Jesus, the Risen Christ, opens his eyes, sees the angel, the stone. Sees what has come before and what will come after. Sees that present moment, too.
Jesus, the Risen Christ, fully God and fully human.
Does Jesus, fully human, pause, fearful, confused? Is he tired? Not just from his passion and death, but from all those years of ministry, of caring for the sick and vulnerable, those society had excluded and cast out? Tired from his apparent failure?
Is there a moment when he again realizes God’s all-encompassing, ever-present embrace? When Jesus smiles, turns toward the angel and nods? When he realizes that failure by human standards is no failure at all to God?
I imagine this scene — in the darkness of the cave — as the bookend to the Annunciation. The angel hails the Risen Christ. “God is with you,” the angel says. “You are with God. You are one and the same.”
And the Risen Christ is perhaps troubled, his mind racing with all that has happened, all that will be, all the potential for God’s glory to unfold. Does Jesus ponder what sort of greeting this is, early in the morning shadow?
“Do not be afraid,” the angel might say. “You have found favor with God. You are Jesus the Christ. And the reign of God that you have been building is still unfolding. For nothing is impossible for God.”
Does Jesus realize it then? Does he stand in the glory of the Resurrection and smile once more? Does the Light of the World then step out of the darkness, out of the cave, out of the tomb and the powerlessness of death and into something new?
We know where he goes: Jesus, the Risen Christ, goes to meet his friends. To offer a word of comfort and hope and encouragement. But he had to leave that cave so as to help others leave theirs. He had to step out of that shadow. He had to recognize that he was totally and completely transformed in God.
Lent is over. But it can be tempting to linger in the cave. We want to wallow in our own doubt and shame and sadness. We see no exit.
But don’t you know God is transforming you, too? The Risen Christ is already at work within you, within me. That same Christ who is transfigured in ways we cannot yet fully grasp.
It’s happening right now. But remember this: The angel came to that tomb in the darkness; it was not yet light. Under the dim glimmer of the moon, the angel rolled away that stone. In the shadows of the early morning, the angel beckoned to Jesus.
So, too, does God work with us. In these moments of challenge and hardship, these moments of darkness and shadow, God’s Spirit arrives under cover of night. The Spirit greets us, reminds us that we have found favor with God. That God delights in all that we are and desires us to be about God’s work, our own vocation.
And now, it is up to us to step out of that cave and into the light of Easter. To whom shall we go carrying with us these words of everlasting life?
Eric A. Clayton is the award-winning author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith (Loyola Press) and the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America Magazine, National Catholic Reporter, U.S. Catholic, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, IgnatianSpirituality.com and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, the World of Myth Magazine and more. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat, Sebastian.