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He Is Risen! Alleluia!

On behalf of the Mill Hill Missionaries I wish all visitors to this website – members, benefactors, friends , curious surfers – a graced and joyful celebration of the Easter Event. May you all be given a taste of the new life it signifies.

Fons Eppink MHM, webmaster

I have the privilege of presiding at the Easter Sunday Liturgy at the local Carmelite community in nearby Schaarsbergen. Here’s my Easter homily:

We hear and experience it every year: the intensely moving account of the suffering and death of Jesus, and the lighting up of new life beyond death – resurrection. And every year it is also a different, hopefully deeper, more lived experience, because I myself have changed, transformed a little more into the image that God always had in mind of me. Moved a little bit more towards total surrender. Does it feel that way? Usually you don’t feel it. We grope for the central mystery of our faith. We call it the Easter mystery.

What particularly struck me in the experience of the events of the Holy Week this year is the emptiness and the silence.

We come out of an abysmal void and a chilling silence this Easter morning. The silence of the empty tomb.

It still hangs like a haze over the Gospel text we just heard.

Take Mary Magdalene: full of sorrow and heartbroken she is the first to go to the tomb. We know it, without the explicit wording: it is love that drives her, a deeply felt lack. But her love for Jesus, a deep, affective, human love, is not enough to make her believe in the resurrection. She sees that the stone has been rolled away, she sees the empty tomb. She feels even more lost because she doesn’t even have a place to mourn. ‘They have taken the Lord from the grave and we do not know…’

Easter is groping for the secret of a presence beyond the pain of absence.

First comes the emptiness and the silence. It is the heartrending cry of Jesus on the cross: ‘My God, my God why have you forsaken me’ . It is the silence of God. The experience of a perceived absence. God’s unspeakable hiddenness. We can’t get around that. It is very important also to live this deeply. The bottomless abyss of Holy Saturday. What should we do with it? Is this silence pure emptiness or is it filled with a mysterious elusive presence? Is it impenetrable darkness or translucent light? Our human gaze does not resolve that ambiguity. The suffering and crucifixion of Jesus heighten the contrast.

John of the Cross speaks very penetratingly of that experience of emptiness and absence:

where did you hide
Beloved, and left me in sighs?
Like a deer you have fled,
After you hurt me
Calling after you I went out,
you were gone

A good acquaintance of mine said something similar about the horrific images of war and violence that we are presented daily from Ukraine.

‘I pray , and pray , and pray. There are fervent prayers going up all over the world. Then why is nothing happening ?’  A contemporary version, you might say, of ‘ My God, my God, why have you forsaken me ‘.

Easter is groping for the mystery of a presence beyond the pain of emptiness and absence. All four Gospels are carried by a consciousness, like a cantus firmus, beyond words, of that presence, resurrection, new life.

The first Easter, the resurrection of Jesus could happen, because he had become total emptiness. The horizon of the resurrection lies beyond the limit of total unreserved surrender. It is the overflowing void of total self-giving love.

Paul says it very penetratingly in his letter to the Christians of Philippi :

‘Who though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God,
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found humanin appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a the cross.

In the same way we are all our lives on our way to an ever deeper surrender. What stands in the way of this is our seemingly incurable self-centredness, our tendency to want to hold on, to grasp, to control. We just can’t let go.

That is why there is silence and the emptiness of Holy Saturday. It leads us into a faithful waiting, an emptying, in order to receive. On Easter morning, the silence is broken and we hear a familiar voice calling us by name and awakening us to new life in mission—to bear witness to the Risen Lord.

Easter is groping for the mystery of a presence beyond our resistance and self-involvement.

Easter/resurrection is a gift from the other shore.

New life becomes our part, even now, in the Eucharist, when we partake in the body and blood of the Risen One .

And when, on occasion, fleetingly, we forget ourselves and approach the other in an attitude of self-forgetting love. ‘As I have loved you, so you should love one another’. (Jn 13: 34)

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