Contemplating a Sunrise

Patrick O’Loughlin, LC

Saturday was no more. The first cloudy wisps of dawn poked through the blackness of night and sent hope to the weary country folk beneath. All were tucked under their thin blankets, oblivious to the miracle of light gathering energy above them – all save one. And she was truly alone.

All night long she had been sitting by the fire, unrolling scroll after scroll of the ancient book. She knew it by heart, but tonight it held new meaning. Every letter and word and sentence and page came to life. Life, not death, filled its pages. Yet, her beloved had passed away. The only person she cared for in this world was dead, and she was alone.

As the night’s hours ticked by, even her humble fire began dwindling and eventually died out. It had been raining all day. The only wood she had been able to scavenge was damp at best, and now proved worthless. Helplessly, the woman watched the coals go out one by one, until that darkness of death engulfed her all about.

She hadn’t been able to do a thing. Powerless, she had seen her loved one taken from her and sold to the enemy, insulted, tortured, and killed. And yet…this couldn’t be the end. Their love had been too strong. One of the phrases she had just read in the scrolls now flashed from her mind to her heart, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” No, in spite of the darkness, in spite of the fact that he was dead, in spite of the confusion, pain, and despair that screamed for a voice in her heart, she believed.

And then a tremendous peace descended on the room, brightening her surroundings. The fire was cold and dead, but, looking up, she saw smiles of a new dawn lightening the sky. It was a new day, a new beginning. Happily, she rose from her chair, drew her veil close, and stepped out onto the wet grass of the village. She was going to the garden. Everything had begun in a garden. And here it had all come to an end.

The walk recalled stories they had told her about that fateful evening before he died: his humility and service at dinner, the infinite love he showed them that night – a love she knew better than anyone. He taught them their last lessons, washed their feet, broke their bread and prayed for them. He walked along this very path, singing hymns with them and consoling them. Following his footprints reassured her.

Soon she reached the garden, but there were still many rows of olive trees before she reached the spot. Here she used to take him on their pilgrimages to the great city when he was young. Normally they would have their little picnic together in silence. There was never much need to speak at moments like those, when God was so close, when love was so strong. And just like then, she now sat down with her back against the familiar rock and gazed out across a fading night that stretched over Mount Zion.

A tear glistened on her cheek. Then another. They weren’t tears of sorrow, for they had long ago been spent already. These were tears of hope and love. They were the same tears that rolled down her son’s cheek not a week before, as he too gazed out over the same city. Love had pulled both of them forward, a love so great that not even the cruelest of deaths could kill.

One by one they squeezed out of their hiding place, rolled, and splashed down to the rock, stained already with her son’s blood and tears. Each tear came accompanied with an image of her other children, the sons and daughters that would flock to her for ages to come, the patrimony her son had left her at the cross, his last precious gift which she cherished far more than her own life. How she loved them…

And as the sharp rays of light streamed through the alleys of Jerusalem, as the rising sun lifted itself above the city for the whole world to see, one last tear ran down her cheek. This last one was for her beloved son. Ever so nobly and lovingly it rolled down until, threatening to drop and abandon her forever, a kind finger reached from behind and gently wiped it away, a loving caress on the most loving of faces. And that strong, vibrant, and powerful voice that she knew all too well whispered, “Mother.”

The mother bowed her head, closed her eyes and grasped that strong hand between her own. It was another moment when love went far, far beyond words. And so the two remained on that rock in silence for hours: Christ hugging his mother gently from behind and Mary clasping his hands in an embrace that could never be broken.

The Son had risen.


Photo Credit: Doc Searls

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Contemplating a Sunrise