Saturday, April 03, 2010
All night had shout of men, and cry
Of woeful women filled His way;
Until that noon of sombre sky
On Friday, clamour and display
Smote Him; no solitude had He,
No silence, since Gethsemane.
Public was Death; but Power, but Might,
But Life again, but Victory,
Were hushed within the dead of night,
The shutter’d dark, the secrecy.
And all alone, alone, alone,
He rose again behind the stone.
--Alice Meynell (1847-1922)
I wish that I were at church right now for the Easter Vigil. It didn't work out for me to be able to go this year, for various reasons. We will go in the morning for the Easter service, which is celebratory and joyful beyond description. But the Vigil is thick with story, ritual, and mystery--and great joy, with them; and I wanted to be there.
Of course, if I were there, I wouldn't have found this poem and wouldn't be here writing. When I came across this poem while ago, I couldn't help but think how true it is that often the most powerful experiences with God in my own life happen in solitude, not in a crowd. And why wouldn't they? What people in intimate relationship want to display their most precious moments to strangers? Certainly you can experience a form of intimacy with a small group of people, but the most powerful relational moments, the moments that change lives, usually occur one-on-one.
In Jesus' life, we see him continually going away from the crowd, and even separating from his closest friends, to pray. And it's when he is away from everyone else that he is transfigured, that Moses and Elijah appear, and that angels come to strengthen him.
I suppose some would say that if only Jesus had been resurrected in front of a crowd, then there would be proof of the resurrection. But apparently when he resurrected Lazarus in front of a small crowd, even though their witnessing the event caused them to believe, it only caused the authority figures to want to capture the evidence (Lazarus) and kill him, to squash the story. We are all very good at explaining away the things we prefer not to believe, despite evidence to the contrary.
And so, in the middle of the night, alone except for the One he had always been most intimate with, He came alive. From the dead. It boggles the mind.
And from that time on--even though no one saw it as it happened--night became less dark for the many who have believed. Death lost its sting. And those of us who manage to escape the crowd from time to time, are also blessed with powerful encounters with the Light and Life that worked in the dark of death that night.
Maybe being alone on Easter night is not such a bad thing, after all.