"And just in that same time that it seemed to me, by all appearances, that his life might no longer last, and the showing of the end must needs be near—suddenly, as I beheld the same cross, his face changed into a joyful expression. The changing of his blissful expression changed mine, and I was as glad and merry as it was possible to be. Then our Lord brought this merrily to mind: “Where is now any point of thy pain or of thy grief?” And I was completely merry."
During her revelations, Julian had been gazing on the suffering and dying Christ on the cross for hours. She expected to see him die. But in a flash, a timeless moment, suddenly his entire face was changed from excruciating pain to ecstatic bliss. And the transformation of Christ instantly transformed Julian as well. From suffering in compassion with Christ on the cross, she was transported with him into ecstatic joy. She says of herself: “I was completely merry.” What a word of giddy grace, welling up out of relief, gratitude, realization, and love!
Perhaps that was what the women felt who came to the tomb on Easter morning in deep sorrow. Their beloved Jesus was dead. They had seen him taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb with a massive stone rolled in front of it. They never expected to find the stone rolled back and the tomb empty – or to experience an angelic presence! When the “young man” told them “He has been raised. He is not here! Look, there is the place they laid him.” (Mk 16:6), they felt fear, awe, perhaps disbelief (as we might also do if we visited the grave of a loved one, found the tombstone knocked over, the coffin open and empty, and saw an angel-like presence and heard him speak to us!). In the shorter version of Mark, the women ran away because they were full of “terror and amazement” and told no one (lest they be considered out of their minds). But in Matthew’s account, the women left “in fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples” (Mt 28:8) and met Jesus himself on the road. In seeing the risen Lord, they (like Julian) were filled with a giddy, irrepressible joy that the world could not take away. They knew Christ was risen indeed!
How do we experience the resurrection story? Do we run away and not tell anyone about our faith in the risen Lord because we’re afraid? Because it’s too much to deal with, too inconceivable, too impossible to believe? Are we confused about the implications of Christ being alive and present within and among us here and now? If Christ is truly risen and truly with us, what does that mean in our lives? What must change? What must we do to realize his presence in our midst more deeply?
Or do we rejoice from the depths of our being that Christ has died (and we have “died with him") and will never die again? That he has already taken us into his death and so in a real sense we, too, are even now being resurrected in him? Do we give profound thanks that we have been forgiven all our misdeeds? Do we acknowledge that we are being transformed, newly created each moment in the life of the Holy Spirit? Do we take time everyday to contemplate the light of Christ shining within us and radiating out to the whole world?
The joy of Easter is contagious. So is the vibrant reality of new life, new light, and new hope breaking into our dark and tortured world. We must become that life, that light, that hope! Let us be like Julian—and the women at the empty tomb—who were awestruck and overjoyed that Christ has transformed death once and for all. Let us bear witness to the good news that Christ has overcome all suffering and evil, even if we cannot see it right now. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, let us dare to live every day in the reality of the risen Christ, as children of the resurrection!
PLEASE NOTE: The quotations above are from Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books), Copyright ©2013 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the written permission of the author.
All text copyrighted © 2013-2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. No copying or reprints allowed without the express permission of the Author.