Luke 24:1-12 The Tomb of Longing

Ten of the eleven remaining apostles don’t believe the women – only Peter does, and then only reluctantly, and with the need to verify what they say by running to the tomb.  Imagine what it must have been like to be one of the others. Called to be apostles, given power and privilege, they hide in the corner, afraid to hope, having surrendered their longing to dread. It’s the women who have enough longing to act. At first, they merely long to participate in a rite of grieving, to prepare the body that has been entombed without any preparation. Then they long to hope, to remember, to believe. But they accept longing, they don’t try to suppress it, and because of this they are the first to encounter the miracle of resurrection.

I’ve been reading the Spanish mystics alongside my reading and writing about Luke, and these posts have been full of references to John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila.  They knew more about peace and joy than most of us do, but they also knew more about longing. When he was dying, St. John asked to have the Song of Songs read to him, that great poem of longing that occupies such a strange place in the Jewish scriptures. He had been given great and tremulous moments of communion with God, moments of ego death when he was empty of anything but joy and grace, and yet he died with his longing alive within him, as we all do. However much we might seek peace and find peace, longing will remain. Even in resurrection. Even when we experience the miracle of the empty tomb.

David Whyte says as much in his lovely little poem, “Easter Morning in Wales.”  Part of resurrection, he seems to be saying, is the freeing of our longing. No longer entombed, it can emerge into the light and, in the light, it gives us eyes to see the beauty of the world, to experience its grace, and to respond with gratitude.  I have written about those glimmering moments when we can see through the eyes of God and experience life, all life, as God experiences it. That is what resurrected longing does for us – it makes us attentive and awake to these moments, it makes us what to talk about them, or write about them, as Whyte does. Our longing, when not aligned with God, can lead us to dark places. But when it is resurrected, and loosed from the tomb of our ego, it is that force which makes us pray and sing.

EASTER MORNING IN WALES
by David Whyte

A garden inside me, unknown, secret,
neglected for years,
the layers of its soil deep and thick.
Trees in the corners with branching arms
and the tangled briars like broken nets.
Sunrise through the misted orchard,
morning sun turns silver on the pointed twigs.
I have woken from the sleep of ages and I am not sure
if I am really seeing, or dreaming,
or simply astonished
walking toward sunrise
to have stumbled into the garden
where the stone was rolled from the tomb of longing.

 

Karl Stevens
Karl Stevens is an Episcopal priest, a spiritual director, and a writer and artist. As a priest he has served as a college chaplain, a parish priest, a diocesan missioner, and a director of children and youth formation. As a spiritual director he has worked privately with directees and led groups of other directors in organizing retreats and special events. As an artist, he co-curated the EASE Gallery, created a series of paintings on the Stations of the Cross that have been used by area churches, and displays work and writings on kpbstevens.com. In addition to all of this, he is the co-host of the Lost in the Wilderness podcast, along with Rabbi Daniel Bogard. He is married with one child and lives in Grandview Heights.