Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

Holy Days

Easter Sunday

One Sweet Moment

April 12, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Paintbox. If you're new to the site, you can learn more by visiting the about page. Each week you'll find links to interdisciplinary lessons followed by my collecting question for the week and then my personal reflection.

On this Easter, I am paying attention to how Mary Magdalene experienced Resurrection.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen–


Spirituality & Psychology

Absolutely Clear


Ani Tuzman

Poem by Sufi poet Hafiz.

Consider what it might be like not to surrender your loneliness so quickly.

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Spirituality & Psychology

The Heat of Midnight Tears

Mirabai, English version by Robert Bly

Poetry Chaikhana Sacred Poetry from Around the World

A poem by 16th century Hindu mystic Mirabai.

Consider your midnight tears as transport to God.

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Where are you seeing Resurrection happening now?


But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. –John 20:11a

I doubt Mary slept at all the night before she ran to the tomb. I believe it had been a night of anguish. Jesus’ soft, tender eyes. His direct piercing eyes. His dancing playful eyes. Closed shut. Without light anymore. And the body that had pulsed with life, the arms that had held her, the hands that had touched her feet, motionless. Cold.

I imagine her grief was accompanied in the twilight of dawn by rage. Rage that now even the lifeless body, the one point of connection to the one she loved, had been stolen from her. I believe she stood outside the tomb with a tight chest; I believe she wept hot tears.

Sometimes it helps me to go outside our Christian literature to be able to hear, as if for the first time, the truth of Jesus’ life and the truth of those who loved him fiercely.

A friend of mine reminded me of this poem by Hafiz:

Don't surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut more deep. Let it ferment and season you as few human or even divine ingredients can. Something missing in my heart tonight has made my eyes so soft, My voice so tender, My need of God Absolutely Clear. Absolutely Clear. –Absolutely Clear by Hafiz

Hafiz could have written his verse for Mary, standing as she did at dawn on the first day of the week, bent over, weeping. Facing a life without him stretching out before her like an endless ache. A life without Jesus. There it was, her inescapable loneliness. Cutting her more deeply. Fermenting and seasoning her as she wept.

Hafiz could have written this verse for me, or for you. Standing outside the tomb, unable yet to see, to hope, to believe. Because some unspeakable pain or rage or grief has you, has me, in a vice grip.

I’ve heard people say they have years when they can’t do Easter. It’s just too big and loud and happy in the face of their gaping wounds, their unmet sadness. I am certain that is so for many people across the world this year.

I understand it. I respect their choice to stay away. But it makes me sad. Because it shows how easy it is for us to make Easter vacant. It shows me that we are at risk of losing the whole point.

This is not a springtime exercise in denial. It was not in a happy, upbeat moment that Jesus came back to Mary. No. He came in her utter despair. When she was at the end. When she could not take any more.

He came in that place where her need of him was absolutely clear. There, he came. And spoke. Mary. There, and only there, she heard him again. Mary. And she responded, Rabbouni.

This is the Easter moment. It is this exchange at dawn, at the end of a long, desolate road that has cut us, that has fermented and seasoned us.

After a Lent spent in the grip of our present global pandemic, as we think about the senseless loss of life and dignity it is causing, Mary’s grief at the tomb comes into sharp relief.

This year, we will awaken to Easter dawn without the familiar. Without the bright, lily-gilded buildings we love, the bold trumpets and magnificent choral anthems, the sweet smell of incense. There are gifts in those symbols of our joy, yet before we can embrace them, we need to go further in.

This year beckons us deeper still. Because today, the pandemic does not magically end. Some among us will still be driving food to us, caring for those without shelter, risking their lives in our hospitals to care for those infected. And today, some among us will still be unable to breathe–afraid of dying, and dying alone without even having their beloveds at their bedsides.

And as some of us know all too well, this experience is not new. Yes, the pandemic is new. But the experience of suffering existing alongside our springtime hope is not new. It is an all too familiar companion for many. It’s just that, in this year, it’s not so easy to look away from this unwanted companion in our world.

Could it be that, being dislodged from our usual rituals this Easter, we can open our hearts in some new, unfamiliar ways and experience the resurrection that is happening all around us? Could it be, too, that our particular experience this Easter can reconnect us, one to another, and help us find our common experience of suffering and our shared hope?

This is indeed an Easter to reach further into the story, toward the precious, tender place. The place where, standing outside a tomb with only her grief and rage, Mary hears one simple thing. Her name. Nothing more. Just her name. Mary.

This is the beginning of resurrection. The first sign of your hope.

Someone sees you. Truly sees you. And calls you by your name. And in that one, simple act brings you the first light of new dawn when you were sure night was all there was.

This is resurrection. Hope calling you back to life. Love finding you again.

One sweet moment. How utterly simple.

And so you were right, as Hafiz wrote, not to surrender your loneliness so quickly. Because in letting it cut more deeply, you become clear. Absolutely clear, of your need for God.

Mirabai, the sixteenth century Hindu mystic, says this:

Listen, my friend, this road is the heart opening, Kissing his feet, resistance broken, tears all night. . . . . If we could reach the Lord through immersion in water, I would have asked to be born a fish in this life. If the worship of stone statues could bring us all the way, I would have adored a granite mountain years ago. Mirabai says: The heat of midnight tears will bring you to God. –The Heat of Midnight Tears by Mirabai

It was Mary’s midnight tears that led her to her risen Lord.

Do you know this place, where your loneliness has cut you? Where your pain has fermented you? Do not give it up so quickly.

Let your midnight tears bring you here. To this holy day. Absolutely clear of your need for God.



One sweet moment. Resurrection.