The light went out. He was the Light, so that was weird; the paradox of being and not being was hard enough when he became human but this was beyond his poor brain’s understanding. Then he realised his brain couldn’t understand anything anymore. He was dead; the betrayal, torture and execution he had foretold had happened; his body devastated; broken beyond any ability to function. The valves in the chambers of his heart blasted open; his lungs like wet sea sponges sodden with fluid, the air sacs filled with black stagnant blood soaking up the redundant oxygen. The unwieldy drop from the cross had left its mark; marrow seeping from stress fractures in the once strong bones of his thighs. The cells that had rushed to heal the many cuts and bruises now surrendering to putrification and decay
He wasn’t sure what he had expected. A pause in time? There was something in that that would have been welcome after all the trials his recent life had caused him. But not all trials – there was so much joy that also belonged to his humanity – remembering his life; how he had grown; to see, to recognise; to name the world before him; and now for his tongue to shrivel in an agonised mouth; eyes to turn milky and hardened in their sockets. Remembering the uncoordinated mysteries of babyhood. Learning to touch, to hold, to create with tiny fingers and thumbs that had gradually become strong and callused. To hold on to his father’s same strong fingers as he had pulled himself to his feet and toddled across the kitchen floor. The spare frame of his body that had carried him out of the Galilee to an outlaw’s death twisting and contorting as the fluids in his joints calcified into stony crystals.
And no words; no thoughts to create words; no mouth to speak; no ears to hear.
Yet he was the Word; or was he? What was a God in a dead body? No different to any human corpse? His mother had not felt his presence, his friends had sobbed and wailed into their robes. He was dead. The inside of the tomb was black; he didn’t need to see - he knew this because his Father has turned away and that was the moment the whole of Creation had turned black.
Did his Father continue to turn in on himself, stilled to despair; distressed beyond the meaning of distress that his own child could be killed by his chosen people; was the Spirit still raging her grief across the air currents? The Creator and the Creative lost without their guiding star. They, who were completeness, now driven apart. How long would they last without him? Beloveds grieving the Beloved; how could he ever find them again?
He was here; woven into the physicality of this parody of flesh, blood and bone. He had delighted in the living; the sensations of touch, taste, smell; the glory of language, gesture, nuance; the experience of friendship, frustration, laughter and fear. He had stepped into his Father’s dream and it had been wonderful beyond words. The dying, too, had been part of that life. Unwelcome, suffering the agonies of pain caused through betrayal, corruption and violence, but still, somehow, life. How his body had borne so much; how his brave heart had driven him to rise and rise again knowing the path of descent that he was taking. And now dead, apart, alone, deaf, mute, paralysed, out of time, nowhere. The miracles he had worked to bring wholeness to others would not work here; the call he had sent out for Lazarus could not rise from this emptying shell. Without the Father’s power to draw upon; without the Spirit’s breath to bring life; he was helpless. Condemned again and again to death.
The God of Nowhere, fell truly silent; mindful in a body without a mind. Meanwhile, his body, seemingly inert, did not understand this concept of dead. The taking of his life had given his body a mind of its own. Chemical reactions were in place; bacteria worked and fed and grew, nails and hair pushed on through the skin. Tiny inhabitants of the tomb visited the body, in spite of the unfinished anointing with myrrh and the spices; feeding on skin flakes and bone fragments. His flesh began to disintegrate but then, its own miracle, to transform, to find a new way to be; seeking to be absorbed into the great universal melee of life. His body still sang its song; at a quieter level; a slower cadence; a softer melodic frequency; but it sang.
And as his body became less and less attached to its worldly memory it turned more and more to God; each cell; each atom knowing the Creator in a way the collective body never had. Noticing the God nearby; they turned first to him for guidance, seeking the next step in the weaving, instinctively knowing that death is never the end; for there is nothing that God had made that has been lost; simply another threshold, another becoming. The Word roused himself and smiled at his own foolishness; remembering how often he had shepherded these small awareness’s back into the weaving; feeding the complex minutia of the earth. Here was the Father in their very existence and here was the Spirit in their eagerness for life; their capacity for rebirth. And he was here; acknowledged by these tiny lives’ desire to be transformed. No longer the fear of separation – knowing that God was completeness.
He, who had borne every ill in Pandora’s Box had found Hope hidden at the bottom.
‘Dead’ was the refusal to believe that this could happen; the despair at losing what he had; the fear that Love no longer existed. In the air around him he felt the souls of the dead; drifting aimlessly; the certainty that they had been forsaken by God cruelly cocooning them; each into their own private Hell. Death had closed their eyes and the darkness had overcome them. He called to them but they would not listen; hope was a lost dream in their everlasting sleep.
Instead he called to himself; the cells that had made up his human form crowded round him. ‘I will be myself again’ he told them ‘myself inside and out.’ The weaving began; the flesh and the divinity dancing together drawing Light and Life into every atom, every pore. The healing knit bones and drew torn skin together, stitched sinew and counted fingers and toes until there were only the places of piercing left. ‘Leave them’, he said ‘so they will know me’.
Hope drew on memory then to feed the heart; the unwavering look of love in his mother’s eyes; the ‘that’ll do’ nod of pride from his father; the rousing cheer of his friends when he finally threw a fishing net without making a cat’s cradle of it; the soft kiss of a woman’s understanding of his dream; the trusting arms of a child around his neck.
He began to shine; the brightness of a nova star; incandescent beyond imagining. The darkness retreated; finding no place to hide, no shadowed corner, no place so deep, no exile so far that the Light could not reach. So bright that the eyes of the dead were opened and their veiled vestiges of flesh warmed. They turned to him at once and were gathered gratefully into his arms. ‘We are going Home’ he reassured them, ‘there are so many rooms in my Father’s house.’
He opened his eyes to the clammy, dusty darkness of the Tomb; a grey-pink light finding cracks in the stonework; a hint of a new dawn. He felt the rhythm of the Dance through the soles of his feet and heard the song of the Spirit in the arms of the fruit trees. Distractedly he rolled one of the winding cloths between his fingers as he listened to the faint, grief-laden heartbeat of a woman standing watch in the morning shadows of the garden and the mournful echoes of loss and despair from the locked windows and upper rooms of an old friend’s house. He could think of no reason to be still be here, when Hope, Light and Love were needed out there. The stone surrendered easily, unwilling to hold the Lord one single second more, and, as he stepped out, the grass rose up to bathe his feet in the morning dew of the first Easter day.