Faith Matters

The glory and the glare of Easter

What can we see with the light in our eyes?

I have always loved the dark seasons. The darkness of the womb in Advent, the deep darkness of the heart in Lent. I love the way the unknown presses on all that we know as we feel our way along—groping, as Paul said to the people of Athens, for God. When asked to wait like an expectant mother, or to steer toward deeper water and let down my nets, I feel like I know what to do, or at least how to get started.

By contrast, Easter often feels to me like staring into the sun. The whole season of Easter is a storm of signs and wonders so brightly lit that it can leave us dazed and blinking. So much light is its own kind of darkness: “light inaccessible,” as Walter C. Smith’s great hymn says. Even Jesus’ closest followers can’t see clearly in the light of Easter. Mary Magdalene doesn’t recognize Jesus until she hears him speak her name; the disciples who meet him on the road to Emmaus don’t recognize him until he feeds them. For Thomas, it’s the touch of Jesus’ wounded body that finally brings him into view.

For me, the image that best captures Easter’s glare is the scene that brings the Easter season to a close on the feast of the Ascension: Jesus’ followers huddled together on the Mount of Olives, staring into the sky.