Miriam’s Garden

It was still dark when I came to the garden early that Sunday morning. I had not slept for grief; I had cried all the tears I had, but knew I had more to cry. The one whom I loved was dead. I had said good-bye, but I knew there were more goodbyes to say. I longed with every fibre of my body to see him again, or at least to see his body again.

The dark was so deep I could not see. I could only feel my way along the edge of the cliff outside Jerusalem into which the tombs are hewn. I stumbled into the garden.

The very first light of day was pale and wan; a grey that showed the outline of the steep wall of tombs and reflected the devastation and desolation I felt.

I was alone. My world had ceased to exist, and somehow I was still alive, but with no purpose. There was no reality – except my overwhelming grief.

The light changed from grey to a gentle pink. I don’t know whether it was the few tears still left in my eyes, or whether it was really this new light, but I thought I saw a ray of pink light strike a dewdrop hanging on a leaf of one of the garden plants. The light split and refracted and struck dewdrops all over the garden. For a second, the whole garden seemed to bloom with weak incandescence.

It was enough light to see that the front of the tomb was open.

I ran.

I ran away.

I didn’t know what I was doing. I ran and ran, and my legs carried me to Peter’s house. “The tomb’s open! It’s empty!” I didn’t really know what I was saying.

Peter got John. They raced each other to the tomb and looked into the indefinite darkness. They too saw that the tomb was empty. But they didn’t understand what they saw. I could see the bewilderment on their faces as I waited outside.

They went home.

I was a little calmer. I went inside. The dawn light was just strong enough for me to see that the grave clothes were lying there, just as they would have been if he had been there. The head cloth was lying to one side.

And again I don’t know if it was just the few dry tears in my eyes, or if I really saw the two beings at each end of the grave stone.

“Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have lain him.”

I stumbled outside, and there was another human presence out in the garden. I thought he must be the gardener. He too spoke.

“Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have lain him. Sir, if you know where he is, please tell me.” For I wanted to see him.

Then his voice, so familiar, the voice I can only cherish.

“Miriam.”

“My Teacher. My Lord.”

Then the tears rushed again. Now not tears of grief, but tears of relief, tears of joy. The morning sun streamed into the garden and all was light.

I ran again and told Peter and John that he was risen. That the empty tomb did not mean his absence, but it meant he was present in a way that would keep him near me for the rest of my life and throughout eternity.

I had seen enough hints and glimpses into eternity in that garden to know it was true. He is risen from the dead.

****

My translation of John 20:1-18 is here.

****

Questions for reflection or group discussion.

I am always shocked at the depth of pain of Mary even in the face of Jesus’ resurrection. Reflect on how pain may be an unavoidable part of love.

When have you felt at the beginning of something new?

Write the story of someone who discovers the secret of eternal life.

I am always shocked at the depth of pain of Mary even in the face of Jesus’ resurrection. Reflect on how pain may be an unavoidable part of love.

When have you felt at the beginning of something new?

Write the story of someone who discovers the secret of eternal life.

The Man Who Had Everything

This is the story of the Man who had Everything, Col-Yesh-Li*. The Kingdom of Col-Yesh-Li stretched from one end of the universe to the other. The kingdom of Col-Yesh-Li contained rich rolling farm-lands, producing crops so thick you could hardly walk through them. Succulent pastures grew sleek sheep and cattle with always plenty to eat.

The lakes of the Kingdom of Col-Yesh-Li were said to reflect the deep brilliant blue of the eyes of Col-Yesh-Li. The mountains, some higher than Everest, were a symbol of his strength. There were tropical rain forests and wild wildernesses making a statement of his vigour and vitality.

In the middle of this vast Kingdom was an amazing palace. Not only were the sweeping classical lines of its architecture a joy to the eye, but the white marble walls throbbed with human life: traders and travellers from the far reaches of the Kingdom reported on the wonders they had seen. Wise women and priests were on hand with clear-sighted advice. There were no soldiers. Col-Yesh-Li believed the greatest strength was in peace.

Every morning lines of people came through the magnificent parks to the main sweeping staircase of the palace to seek advice or resolution of conflicts with their neighbours. All were entertained in the spacious halls of the palace with fine food and drink, and each was received courteously by Col-Yesh-Li himself, and each went away with their question resolved.

But Col-Yesh-Li was dying. He banished all from the great palace, and lay down on a concrete slab to prepare himself for death. He lay and thought of his great kingdom.

He thought of the farm fields drying up; crops failing. He thought of the cows and sheep disappearing. The lakes and the rivers arid and empty. The great trees of the rain-forest unleaving. The wilderness transforming to desert.

He lay alone in his palace. No human life remained. No life at all, except Col-Yesh-Li. In each of his deeply blue eyes a tear formed. The tears flowed down each side of his face on to the concrete slab where he lay. A mist began to take shape over the renowned form of Col-Yesh-Li, as the tears trickled in twin rivulets across the floor of the echoing room, and along the empty corridors. They became streams as they ran down the grand entry staircase, and small rivers as they flowed through the now parched princely parks.

And as they ran, the parks re-greened. The crops self-seeded, and proceeded to produce legendary yields. The pastures sprung to new life, as the twin rivers flooded to the rain-forest and the wilderness, generating new vigour and prodigious growth.

And Col-Yesh-Li was breathing his last breaths. At the very moment the mist covered him, and his breathing stopped, there was a yell.

It was a baby in the palace of Col-Yesh-Li. A baby bellowing the unstoppable gift of new life.

*****

* In the language of Biblical Hebrew, “col yesh li” means “everything that there is, is his.”

*****

When I first wrote the story of Col-Yesh-Li, I believe I was influenced by the healing rivers in Ezekiel 47:1-12. Several people who have heard the story were reminded of the rivers in Genesis 2. Flooding rivers is symbolism that can surely overlap and expand!

*****

Questions for reflection or group discussion.

¨ Where do the deep springs of your life come from? What makes you feel strongly? What encourages you to be full of energy? Where do you look for energy and passion in your life?

¨ The person who has everything needs the gift of self-giving. What do people mean when they say that “riches can’t buy you happiness”?

¨ When have you experienced someone’s (or some One’s) generosity?