April 16, 2023
“…but on going inside, the body of the Lord was not to be found….”
Going inside the tomb was the plan all along. From the death to the placement in the tomb, the women knew they would be returning to tend to the corpse, which would mean going inside. Some of the group may have done this before. If any of them had experienced death in their family or circle, entering a tomb would be familiar. But for some, this may have been a first. For all, it was a solemn, grief-filled visitation.
They went inside the tomb. Carved out of rock on a hill, the tomb would have been cold and dim, lit only by early dawn light coming in from the entryway. The women knew where the body was and noted exactly how it had been placed in the tomb by Joseph (Luke 23:56). Two days later, upon entering, the body was not there. It was not where Joseph had placed it. The tomb was empty.
As we sit and pray with this movement in this story and engage the imagination of our hearts in prayer, we can glimpse and experience what this must have been like for this community of women. JB Phillips translates this pericope with the specific phrase “the body of the Lord was not to be found,” indicating that they noticed its initial absence and searched the tomb to find it. How do you see that in your heart’s imagination? What feelings did they have as they searched? Did they talk to one another as they tried to find the body or were they silent in their search? What did the absence of the body and this emptiness provoke in them?
Today, you might consider surrounding yourself with empty things. An empty bowl, empty cup, empty hand, empty basket, empty heart—something that will be your meditation and reflection guide as you pray this passage. Practitioners of contemplative prayer and mystics often engage in “emptying”—sitting in silence and intentionally emptying the mind and heart of the self to allow and make room for God to enter and be present. This is empty tomb praying. Being a holy sepulchre. Emptying self and being open to letting God make us holy and life filled. This is a way to take the sting and fear out of absence. Your chosen empty object will help you in this way to pray.
Another insight from this verse of the story in Luke is that there was a group who went—a community. In times of bewildering grief, companions on the way are gifts and help. Give thanks for those who pray with you, walk with you to the tomb, and help you in your search for Christ.
Prayer: Holy One, give me courage to enter empty places. Give me courage to trust that vacancy is where you are making all things new. Find me as I search for you. Amen. Alleluia.
These essays are thoughtful and moving. Will they be compiled and published?