April 21, 2019
This Easter I would like to share some thoughts on Easter Sunday by Megan Black published by Celebration Publications. If you spend enough time in an art classroom, you will eventually learn a concept known as “negative space.” This term refers to the empty space between and around objects in a work of art, like the space between a cup and its handle, or between an object in a painting and the edge of the canvas. Artists are very intentional about how they use negative space, as it is an important way to draw attention to the subject of the work of art. So, paying attention to the way that artists use negative space – or the absence of something – will often reveal key insights into the artist’s purpose and can sometimes even reveal hidden or subversive meanings.
Our Easter Sunday readings are not necessarily works of visual art, but they do have a lot to say about negative space, and the absence of things. In the first reading, we hear Paul telling the Gentiles that Jesus was resurrected to be visible not to all the people, but to those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. The invisibility of Jesus to the non-witnesses becomes a kind of negative space, drawing our attention to the fact that the resurrected Christ was intentionally visible only to a select group of people, suggesting that the witnesses are as much a part of the Easter narrative as the Resurrection itself…
…Let us imagine for a minute that, Jesus had been present in the tomb, returned to life, and visible to all who came upon him – that he filled the entire canvas, so to speak. This would probably be the end of the story. Our attention would be focused on the historical person of Jesus, and the evidence of his miraculous resurrection. The actions taken by the apostles after the discovery of the tomb would be of little interest in the face of the overwhelming power of Jesus’ glorious public return to life.
Instead, the emptiness of the tomb becomes the story of the disciples – the witnesses – and their journey to faith and salvation as they attempt to make sense of it. And so, we have the road to Emmaus, the story of the doubting Thomas, the angels appearing to Mary Magdalene. We come to realize that the story of the Resurrection is the story of the whole church as much as it is the story of Jesus of Nazareth. We are given the theology of the Eucharist, and its power to make us witnesses to the visible Christ, as Paul tells us in the first reading. We are given the story of the Christian community, the communion of saints, the living and eternal body of Christ. Thus, the negative space of the tomb points us not to the absence of Jesus, but rather to the presence of each other, the witnesses, and to the journey of faith that ends in the resurrection for all of us.
On behalf of Father Stan and myself, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who had a hand in decorating the churches for Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday. I also want to thank the altar servers, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, and ushers who have made these celebrations so special. I want to thank the people in charge of the annual Pancake Breakfast, the Holy Thursday evening meal, and the Good Friday Fish dinner – without your help we could not accomplish it. THANK YOU!
God Bless, Fr. Ray