‘While it was still dark…’
[This is the seventh of the Eleven Resurrectional Gospels of Matins]
When Jesus had received the wine, He said, ‘It is finished.’ Then He bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:30). For the Evangelist John, the Cross was the true manifestation of Christ’s glory. His mission was completed, but Good Friday was only the beginning of a new phase in the faith journey of the disciples, a drama set in the time between the empty tomb on Easter morning and the tongues of fire at Pentecost.
Act One begins ‘while it was still dark.’ Mary Magdalene appears and sees, but not with the eyes of faith. What will it take to dispel her darkness, and ours? With fear and uncertainty, the Magdalene hurries to Simon Peter and the other disciple, meaning of course the Evangelist John himself.
Peter and John return on the run. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, arrives first. The one who was steadfast at the Cross of Christ together with the Mother of God, arrives before Peter, the ‘rock’ on whose faith Christ would build His kingdom (Matthew 16:18), but who crumbled three times in denying Christ. Nonetheless, John waits for Peter, as faith and Church authority intertwine. Already we have witnessed a diverse cast of characters, all of whom are foundational to our own understanding of the dramatic movement of faith in our lives.
Peter’s attention is drawn to what might be considered the first Christian relics.
He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.
These relics recall the faith with which another member of the cast, Joseph of Arimathea, had bravely and lovingly wrapped the body of Jesus for burial.
As for John, we learn that the sight of these relics were enough for him to believe. Without beholding the Risen Christ himself. Without even yet understanding the Scripture, ‘that He must rise from the dead.’ That’s because the very Scriptures were being formed by his very experience and his undoubted witness. Nor has the Holy Spirit as yet descended.
When the Advocate comes, Whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth Who proceeds from the Father, He will testify on My behalf (John 15:26).
We who have the Scriptures and the Spirit – how much more are we blessed with the opportunity to see with the eyes of faith!