What is this faith that proclaims victory over death? That celebrates a savior risen yet hidden in mystery, calling for a belief transcending understanding?
The Easter Season reminds me of all the tombs that remain unopened. Of the promise of Jesus as the Christ contrasted with the common brutality of life yearning to escape death. I grieved at the tomb of my mother and the stone was not rolled away.
I remember how it felt to wait as the medics attempted to revive my mother. Clutching her purse, I struggled to find meaning in the void. Already I could feel her memory slipping from me, replaced by a hope that refused the world and the pain of her existence.
Weeks later, I found myself on the kitchen floor sobbing in the fetal position as I realized that an entire day had passed without my mother’s face at the forefront of my mind. That she could be lost in such a way.
During this time of the liturgical year, I imagine the Apostles in a similar position – their hopes and dreams vanquished by the cold reality of power demonstrated in human flesh and through mortality. I imagine their doubt and betrayed faith in the moments after catastrophe when we attempt to construct meaning from the void.
In the shorter version of the ending of the Gospel According to Mark, we are left with the image of Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome fleeing from the empty tomb – awash in terror from experiencing the presence of the Divine and amazed at the fulfillment of the promise revealed through the gospel message. They relate the Good News to Peter and the others and thus become the first preachers of Jesus as the Christ. The first true proclaimers of the Word.
And Jesus becomes the Christ and enacts salvation through his followers and those who find a reconciled hope in the Resurrection.
But how are we to find this salvation? Death arrives in silence and persists despite the promise and our hope. Sometimes, I feel the spirit of my mother coursing through me – guiding my steps and insisting on my faith as a lived ethical duty to others and as a calling that cannot be ignored. At other times, I can’t help but mourn her body as it decays in the dirt and mourn her memory, which grows faint with the passing years.
I study Christianity, but I do not understand it. And the proclamation of victory over death is more than a question of belief for me – and for my mother. Resurrection grounds my relation to humanity and insists on the centrality of memory, celebration, and community to the Christian faith.
Christ is risen in our shared commitment to living the story of the unseen. Christ is risen indeed in our love and the fact that, perhaps, the memory of Debra Pinkney now courses through you – and calls you to a faith which transcends death.
Foster J. Pinkney is a writer, student, and organizer from Columbus, Ohio. He is a recent graduate from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York and started attending the University of Chicago Divinity School in September 2015, to study for a PhD in Religious Ethics.