We were still immersed in darkness, both interiorly and exteriorly. The Master had descended into the abyss of silence. As for us, we were more alone than ever. Perhaps Jerusalem was not even aware that Jesus was no longer there. All our betrayals flowed before us like a never-ending river. How could he ever forgive us? His innocent blood was on our hands….
One person alone refused to give up. Unable to stay away from the Master, Mary Magdalene fearlessly returned to his tomb. At dawn, her cry shook our little community out of its sluggishness: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have put him!” (Jn. 20:2) We raced to the tomb and saw for ourselves that the stone sealing the entrance had been removed. We entered the tomb and, after noting the grave wrappings and face cloth lying on the ground, we went home. Mary remained behind, weeping for her Beloved and searching for him (cf. Sg. 3:1-3). Bending over to look into the tomb, she saw “two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’” (Jn. 20:12) The memory of her Beloved, nourished by Sacred Scripture and by the Temple liturgy, made her think of the two cherubim enthroned over the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant, their wing tips meeting above it, guarding the space inhabited by the divine presence.
When the Ark was placed definitively in the Temple of Jerusalem, that empty space became the place of God’s glory, power and presence. And on the Feast of Atonement (Yom Kippur), when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to perform the rite of atonement, that empty space between the two cherubim (in Greek, hilasterion: instrument of atonement) was transformed into the place where God cancelled all the sins of his people (cf. Ex. 25:22; Lv. 16:15-16). Emptiness, therefore, is the space God needs in order to continue to meet, speak with and forgive his children. In the light of Easter morning, between the angels in the empty tomb, Mary met the risen Lord: the eternal sacrifice of atonement of the New Covenant (cf. Rm. 3:25-26), the “place” where the loving mercy of God is present until the end of time.