A reflection on John 20:11-18
I always find this passage from John's Gospel such a bittersweet evocative moment. First we are shown Mary’s grief not only at the loss of her beloved Jesus but also that sting that comes at the realisation that his body has been taken away, its yet another blow after all that she has been through.
As we observe this story unfolding we do so with hindsight; we know that this sorrow is short lived. We know that Jesus, now resurrected, speaks words of comfort to her but she has yet to recognise him. We are in on the joy that is about to unfold and can't wait for the moment of realisation. In the blink of an eye Mary’s Joy will know no bounds. It is a breathtaking moment when resurrection life is declared in all its glory and we all revel in Mary’s blissful reunion.
But, there is a but. Immediately realisation dawns, Jesus is absolutely insistent on one thing.
‘Do not Hold on to me’ other versions. Do not cling to me‘
And this is the great key to our own encounter with resurrection life
Firstly, to encounter the resurrection of Christ in our own lives (as happened for Mary in this vignette) is to go through a profound shift in our consciousness. It is an awakening to a new understanding of who Christ is, which challenges and changes our entire perspective of whatever we may have thought previously. It is an awakening to the Christ who is present in the now, within us, and in every single moment that we live and breathe. Some call this awakening the dawning of the ‘Christ consciousness’ where we realise that at no point in our lives were we ever separate from Christ. Indeed we see that the sense of separation we once felt was nothing more than an illusion.
But it is an illusion that is often supported by mainstream teaching. We learn all about the historical Jesus and the humanity of Jesus all of which are within our comfort zone as we can fully relate to a human Jesus. We can relate to Jesus as a teacher, an activist, a leader and even a friend...but all of these do rather imply a degree of separation from our own soul.
But once we get into the realm of the divine Jesus, the resurrected Jesus, the ascended Jesus we are at a loss! The mystic underpinnings of these are rarely taught much less the practices by which we encounter the divine Christ at the very core of our being.
Even so, sometimes such an awakening comes to us unbidden, in the depths of grief, when we are totally undone by the pain of loss, or when we are facing some other such agony that strips us of all our coping mechanisms. Other times it comes in a moment of gratitude as we realise the infinite generosity of God that is pouring blessings upon us at every moment, and sometimes the dawning comes as we simply contemplate nature, or scripture - the two great books authored by God.
All of these serve as chinks in the curtain of our narrow minded, temporal perspective. And sometimes that is all it takes, a small chink that the Christlight might break through and we awaken to find Christ, alive, at the very core of our soul awaiting our joyous recognition.
But such recognition is yet fragile, hard to imagine given how long we have been steeped in our worldly, illusory state of separation. As we set foot for the first time in this new territory of ‘resurrection consciousness’ the temptation might yet remain to cling to the old perspective, the human Jesus whom we prefer to follow from a safe distance so that we remain relatively unaffected by the divine mystery that is ‘hidden in full view’ in his teaching.
Then again if we set our spiritual compass with an intention to embrace this new awakening, if we stop clinging to what we once knew, then our old, ego driven ways recede as the ‘Christ consciousness’ ascends in the soul. It becomes the bedrock of who we are opening us up to the life we were meant to have to the full...or as Paul puts this so succinctly…
‘It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me’
Our Joy, like Mary’s, is complete! No longer need we ever fear again a single moment of separation from the beloved. We are at one reconciled to God in Christ..we have discovered heaven on earth.