Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Easter Sunday - On the first day of the week while it was still dark

I wish I could paint - I do not mean the skimpy pen and wash apologies that fill my sketchbooks but I mean really paint!  I have Rembrandt in mind - There are three Rembrandt paintings from John’s Gospel:

Jesus and the Samaritan woman
The lifting of the cross
Doubting Thomas

But not the one I would like to paint -  emulating his style with layers of paint and with his use of light (which is extraordinary and always illuminates the detail of the story) with all of this I would like to make a canvass  “On the first day of the when it was still dark, Mary came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed.”

Take a moment please to imagine, any Rembrandt that you remember and apply it to this scene: Mary barely lit, the stone rolled away softly glowing, the centre of the miraculous moment like the Father’s hands on the prodigal son or the light on Jesus in the supper at Emmaus. Perhaps your  picture will be like this.

Now many of us will have returned to discover something unexpected, perhaps our car or our bicycle is not where we thought. Panic sets in - or it does with me - am I in the right place? Has it rolled away down the hill? Was it on another floor in that multi-storey? Our first idea is to try to find a rational explanation for what we see. When that fails our second is to tell someone else and see if they can help, Frances where did I leave the car? Mary I imagine went through all these things quickly and in a state of anxiety before deciding that somebody else had interfered with Jesus’ body and rushing to the disciples she says “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid him.” Our third reaction is to blame someone: Frances, somebody has stolen the car!
Usually we discover the cause of our bewilderment and after all nothing too major has happened we find the right floor,the stolen car is recovered, the insurance pays up - life goes on.

But when Jesus was found everything changed. His resurrection was singular, there has been nothing like it before and nothing like it since. You may perhaps have Lazarus in mind but Lazarus awakened from his grave has again a mortality and is to die again. Jesus was raised from the dead but with a transformed embodiment. Mary does not recognise him until he speaks directly to her calling her name “Mary”

Then she does realise, recognise and the relief flows through her in great waves.
“Rabbouni” she cries - and like a mother finding a child she wants to hold him close to embrace him. Just as we would want to.

Our painting of Mary in the gloaming, in front of a tomb, the stone rolled away has to convey this - that everything has changed most especially our understanding of life, our understanding of death. For this we need a painter of the calibre of Rembrandt to paint the stones, the tomb, the garden, Mary and the mysterious light he would bring to the scene.

The light that allows us in funeral services to say:

Ini sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our lord Jesus CHrist who will transform our frail bodies that they may be conformed to his glorious body”

This is the promise, made real of Jesus alive.


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