Image: Orthodox icon of the Harrowing of Hell.

‘Love with determination’

Andrew Collis
Easter Day, Year A
John 20:1-18

Mary of Magdala sees that the stone has been rolled away from the tomb’s entrance.

Mary sees … Mary weeps and misunderstands. “Yet, despite misunderstanding, Mary at no point abandons her search to leave for home. Behind her tears are love and determination as well as misunderstanding” (Dorothy Lee).

The good news is that determined love is the way to Easter faith.

No-one can make you believe in the resurrection. I can’t prove to another that God’s future has already burst in upon the world, overcoming evil and vindicating goodness – though that may sound a very faithful statement.

What I can do is love with determination. I can vow to not abandon the One in/with whom I know love.

The good news is that a determined love may, at any time, by the grace of God, be transformed into Easter faith. What happens for Mary is that she hears her own name. She discovers her true self in relation to the One she loves – in relationship with the One she learns to not idolise (“Do not go on touching me,” Christ says), in relationship with the One whose presence she discerns in the life of community (among siblings).

She re-discovers herself in relationship with One who authorises her own truth-telling – a truth of non-violence in a very violent, and, of course, very patriarchal/kyriarchal/colonial world.

There is a story familiar to Orthodox Christians of Mary preaching the truth of Christ crucified and risen. Tiberius Caesar scoffs and says he no more believes in a crucified criminal rising to life than in the egg in Mary’s hand turning red. At which point the egg in Mary’s hand turns red. The story speaks of Mary’s bold and effective preaching …

Mary is the lover in the Song of Solomon who loses, seeks and recovers her beloved (3:1-4). Mary is a new Eve at peace in the garden. Mary is the Apostle to the apostles (Hippolytus), and the Bride of Christ – that is, you and me, drawn into our own encounters with symbols of Easter faith.

When it comes to Easter, perhaps we mostly misunderstand. And yet, there are moments when our determination to love, despite deep frustration and grief, at its best a determination to love Jesus, is rewarded … is confirmed in peace, trust and new confidence in God.

We say then in gratitude that our determination to love was the Spirit’s own loving in us, the Spirit of love determined to draw us close to Christ … Amen.