The empty tomb joyously follows the empty tabernacle

This 15th-century painting from the Royal Library of Turin in Italy shows an empty tomb depicting the Resurrection. Easter, the chief feast in the liturgical calendars of all Christian churches, commemorates Christ's resurrection from the dead. (CNS photo/Bridgeman Images)

This Easter, Sister Karol Joseph baked us “Resurrection rolls.” The dough, dusted with cinnamon and sugar, is formed around a marshmallow. The oven’s heat melts the marshmallow into the bread, leaving an empty space in the middle of the roll reminiscent of the empty tomb — and a taste just as triumphantly sweet.

Consuming my first ever “Resurrection roll” constituted one memorable moment of this Easter season. Another occurred as I read the angel’s Easter morning greeting to the women, “He is not here!” (Matt 28:6). The words struck me with new force this year: they are so similar to the words that ring in my heart, not joyously but mournfully, relentlessly, every Holy Saturday: He is not here! He is gone — from every church and every chapel. Around the world, sanctuary lamps are extinguished, holy water fonts emptied, and tabernacle doors flung wide, revealing the gaping emptiness where He used to dwell. The One for whom we exist, the only One who makes anything in life mean anything, is gone. “They have taken my Lord” (Jn 20:13).

The emptiness of Holy Saturday and the emptiness of Easter: what makes them different? Both are signs, but they signal opposite realities. The first signals His absence, caused by our sin, which is the ultimate emptiness. It is the emptiness within the Prodigal Son, who has spurned his father and squandered his fortune and suddenly awakes to find himself distant, lonely and starving. The emptiness of Easter, on the other hand, signals His presence — forevermore: “I am with you always” (Matt 28:20). It is the emptiness of the Prodigal Father’s arms, reaching out to embrace that returning son who fills the place the Father has ever left open for him.

But, in fact, neither emptiness is completely empty. In the breach of Holy Saturday stands Our Lady, holding in her hands the faith of the Church, while her Son empties the realm of the dead to populate heaven. And, filling the open tomb of Christ with their radiance, are the angels, brilliant messengers of joy, sitting beside the neatly folded burial cloths, physical attestations of their message.

In moments of emptiness in our lives, let us remember that we are not alone. We may feel far from Christ, but we have always our Mother, the angels, and physical contact with the Lord through the sacraments. Relying on these helps, let us trust the fire burning within the furnace of Christ’s merciful Heart to melt us into the fibers of the world around us. There — in our home, in our workplace, in the lives interwoven with our own — we will leave the sweetness of Christ (cf. 2 Cor 2:15).

Sr. Maria Veritas Marks is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.