Beyond No Hope

If we miss the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, we miss a crucial part of the Holy Week story.

In his account of the events that transpired between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Matthew says that on Friday

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

This is a tomb, “hewn in the rock,” a kind of cave, probably large enough for a person to stand up in. Joseph lay the lifeless body of Jesus in this rock hewn tomb.  He rolled “a great stone” across the entrance to the cave and walked away.

The end.

The air inside the tomb did not stir.  It was completely dark. There was only the stillness and silence of death in that tomb.

Reflecting on the death of Jesus Dr. Allen Callahan says,

When it happened it was such a disastrous finish to what was such a glorious beginning that no hope, no human hope could be sustained.

And so everyone’s heart was broken.

Now the traditions are very emphatic that Jesus died.  He didn’t swoon; he didn’t go into a coma.  He was dead.  He was dead.

Good Friday is really not that good at all.  It is the place where hope cannot be found.  It’s not that you cannot see it.  It’s not there.  It’s really not there.

The tomb is the place that comes after you have no hope.  It is the place that is even darker and more hopeless than the cross.  The tomb is the place where life and light and beauty have all come to an end. In the tomb, according to all your senses there is nothing more.  There is no consolation, no glimmer of light, no expectation.  The story is just over.

Or is it?

Hidden from sight, in this tomb some mystery began to stir. An invisible power, a force of life was being unleashed.

In a dimension we cannot see, or smell, or touch, or taste, or hear, a miracle was being born.  New life was unfolding.  That winding cloth in which they wrapped Jesus’ body, like the chrysalis of a caterpillar, was being laid aside to reveal the unfolding reality that, beyond no hope there is something more.

Beyond what our senses can perceive or our minds can begin to comprehend, there is something more.

Easter demonstrates that there is another dimension to human existence than the merely physical realities which take up so much of our time, attention and energy.

It is in this other dimension that the true nature of human existence resides.

How does this other reality begin to become true for us?

The answer lies in following the path of “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.”  Matthew says,

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

That is the place we find Jesus.  He is in the last place we expect him. He is in the hopeless place, the place where we have come to the end of our resources, where we know we have failed, have been wrong, have not measured up. Jesus resides in the place where we no longer believe in the illusion of our control over life and so choose to surrender.

Thomas Merton wrote in his book Disputed Questions,

Our Christian hope is the purest of all lights that shine in darkness, but it shines in darkness, and one must enter into darkness to see it shining.

We do not find light by denying the darkness.  We do not find light by trying to fix the world, or struggling in a futile attempt to assert control over the circumstances of life.

We find the light that is the love and power of God, by acknowledging the darkness and by entering into that darkness of self-denial and death. We discover the place within ourselves that knows God when we walk into the darkness of uncertainty, doubt and fear.  We find the truth that is Jesus in the midst of our pain and confusion, never in spite of these difficult realities.

Leonard Cohen understood this profoundly when he wrote his beautiful prayer, “Show me the place.”

Show me the place, help me roll away the stone
Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place where the word became a man
Show me the place where the suffering began

The truth we see in Easter is that we uncover our true humanity when we allow the stone that lies across the tomb of our heart to be rolled away.  Then, in the midst of the darkness we discover true light and hope.

The extraordinary reality of Easter is that the light, the truth and the love that are born in our hearts by the grace of God are finally seen to be stronger, more real, more true and more pure than all the violence, all the darkness and all the suffering that the world could ever impose upon anyone.  Jesus has risen.

In his resurrection Jesus has healed the brokenness of the world.  He has renewed that pure image of God that is our true heritage.  He has set us back upon the path to freedom, hope and joy that lies in the innermost depths of our being.

The challenge now is to live with the stone rolled away, with hearts open to the tender Spirit who moves in the darkness bringing us to light.


by: C. Page


1 reply
  1. Janet Honour Hedgecock
    Janet Honour Hedgecock says:

    I was greatly moved by this … Beyond No Hope …. I am searching works by Cynthia Bourgeault, Richard Rohr, James Finlay and now this.
    I am fortunate to be exploring and receiving on going Spiritual Direction from Roger Dawson, Jesuit Priest in St Beunos retreat centre in North Wales.
    I have read books by Thomas Keating and Thomas Merton amongst many others in my quest.
    I love letting go in centering prayer.
    I would be interested greatly to receive news and information from the Contemplative Society.
    Janet Hedgecock

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