Easter Vigil

A space for recognition

Resurrection is not resuscitation. It is not the reviviscence of a cadaver. It is not magic. It is not reincarnation. It is not spatial conquest (similarly, the ascension is not levitation). Jesus has not become ectoplasm. He is no longer in space or time.

I would like to focus on the idea of space. I am suggesting that Jesus has made a transition from our kind of space to another kind, a kind that is called space only in the loosest of metaphors. The difference is that in the new and other ‘space’ he is free from objective representation in our kind – or any kind - of geometry, and so free from all barriers of separation. It is indeed a new creation. Differences and diversities are there, but only to ensure that all creatures are together in their proper new life. 

With that thought, I want to ponder where it was that Magdalen met Jesus. 

Mary Magdalen, on the first Easter morning, in the cemetery, did not know ‘where’ ‘they’ had taken the body of Jesus. They had taken him away from the kind of space she could know. The things that belong there had already been done for Jesus – burial, anointing, etc, grieving, mourning. There is a kind of knowing that goes with that sort of space. Jesus wasn’t there anymore. Mary wasn’t really there either. She ‘did not know’ the other space he had gone to. She was in a state of ‘not knowing’. No geometric recognition was possible there. She did not know yet that there was another kind of knowing possible there. She was in transition …. The death on the cross, and subsequently the seeming violation of the grave, had combined to shock her into this strange somewhere else where the ordinary rules, and ordinary signals, did not apply. In another story of Easter morning, two angels had come from this other space into our kind of space and time, to assure the perplexed disciples that he had gone elsewhere… In still another story of that Easter day, two disciples on the Emmaus road found that their eyes were closed to the deeper kind of recognition needed to discover where he had gone…. If I might put other words on the lips of Magdalen, ‘Rabbi, where do you live now?’ ‘Come, and see…’ 

Magdalen is making a transition. There are three markers in it. They are the voice, the visage, and the garden. The voice carries messages from the other world. The visage is the dynamic form of the body, a form not needed in that other world, and seldom really seen, and then only indirectly, in our world. The garden is the frontier between these worlds. Magdalen is like God seeking humans in the garden. It was in the garden that God was seeking Adam, the Earthling. It was in the garden that God called Eve, the mother of all the living, by her own name. Magdalen took the body of Jesus into her hands as Eve took the fruit of the tree in the garden. But you can’t hold someone who isn’t in holdable space. The risen one may have looked to her like a gardener, and in some ways the new Adam was one, but he had no straw hat or shovel. 

There are three gardens in scripture. Eden; Gethsemane; and the ‘garden’ of the resurrection.   And there is Van Gogh’s gardener…

The transition is into a space that is free of the way fantasms function (they too are described and seen in space terms). The transition is into a real presence that is more real because it is free from that. This space is devoid of all material content, and the symbols there have nothing material in them (they are like the empty tomb). That is why they are just symbols, and symbolising is the only thing they do.  They do it all the time. It is their only function. In their world there is a network of intricate relations and that’s all there is. That is the ALL.   The garden was only a half-way house. It was like the inn near, but not at, Emmaus. In the other world you can’t grasp anything or anyone…all you can do is gasp!

But there is something else going on in that world. The risen one is doing it. It is the act of announcing (annunciation) that life is more than the old space and time world and it is now without the need of space and time. It is a life of a different quality. Maybe you could call it a new evangelisation!

It’s a place outside place, outside all representation. Foucault called it heterotopic. To get ‘there’, if ‘there’ is the right word, you have to let go of the kind of cognition you have been used to, and discover that there is another kind of cognition in the non-cognition. Edith Stein said that when you get there, there will be no there there.

To assure us who still live in the world of space and time that this is true, Jesus, having risen from the dead, appeared to us, ‘as if’ in our world.

Jesus, in the new world, has or does an anamnesis of the world he has forever left behind. He wants to use something from the left-behind world to communicate with us and announce to us the eternally new reality. That something is our impression, imaginatively, of the sort of risen body he has now.  It is – because it is his body and risen – the microcosm of the new world to which he now belongs.   It beckons us out of our old world and into his world. He, could I say, still wants to play with our stuff, which he has gone beyond, and use it as a pure symbol to announce to us that he is not contained there, he is somewhere other than that. 

Could we stretch this idea and see the risen one asking us to incarnate him, that is, to repeat this manner of using material realities and imaginations – indeed each and every creature of each and every epoch of all our histories and all our geographies.

In that new world you are never alone – all is communing together. All is announcing it all together. And in it you are never silent – all is communicating to us.

Did Jesus, then, actually – for this purpose – have a real space-time material body? No. If he had one he would not have risen, he would not have gone beyond.   It is not he, but we who have such bodies and imagine how things might be in the fantasms we form of such bodies after this life. He was willing to be present in his utterly different newness in and through that, so that we might be shocked into a new recognition of a life that is utterly other.  

Mary Magdalen, teach us to know him as he now is.