"They both ran, but the other disciple [John] outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping down to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came ... and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on [Jesus'] head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple [John], who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed." (John 20:4-8)For John, seeing Jesus' discarded burial wrappings was a sign; it allowed him to grasp the truth that Jesus had been raised. This takes us right back to the shepherds at the time of Jesus' birth. The angel said, "This will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." For both John and the shepherds the wrappings acted as a sign. For the shepherds it was Jesus' presence in the bands; but for John, His absence. And both signs occurred in caves to which the men had been sent - the first was the cave of the Nativity, and the second was the rock-hewn tomb. In the first Jesus had been laid in a manger, most likely also carved from rock; and in the second Jesus' body rose from the rock slab on which it had been lain. I of course am not the first to see this; you can find it woven into the icon of the Nativity at left. God's sense of symmetry is truly beyond words.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
Of Swaddling Clothes and Grave Wrappings
Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, the "disciple whom Jesus loved." Today's Gospel reading came from the end of John's Gospel, from his Resurrection narrative. It may seem a strange choice for the Christmas season, but while at Mass I recognized a profound symmetry at work. Let me share a couple of lines with you: