When I read the gospel about Lazarus being raised from the dead and repeat Jesus’ words, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even if [s]he dies, will live” one would think, as a believing Christian, I would be comforted–right? Wrong! Lazarus fell ill and he did die. But that isn’t the part attracting my attention. My attention is on what happens next.
Can you imagine being Lazarus? One minute you are feeling really bad and then, much to your surprise, you are being called by Jesus to come out of YOUR TOMB.
Soon, I will make perpetual monastic profession. Part of the ceremony includes being symbolically buried. I will lie down on the floor and be covered with the community’s funeral pall (most likely this same pall will be used at my funeral). Everything within me resists vulnerability. It doesn’t matter what it is that makes me feel vulnerable, my first reaction is to resist it. The ceremony calls for me to lie face down on the floor with my arms in a position which renders me powerless to protect myself and there will be a pall over my whole body, my head too. In anticipation my feelings are…well…that sinking feeling of vulnerability. You can well understand why, this year, I am exploring the tomb experience from Lazarus’ view of it.
I love the illumination found in the St. John’s Bible for this scripture narrative. The image is from Lazarus’ perspective. He is looking from the darkness to the light outside the tomb. In the tomb he is wrapped and enclosed. Out there, out there is everything all too familiar. For Lazarus, nothing changed. His being called from the tomb isn’t the resurrection; it’s his life. He becomes vulnerable to all the same things as before. Lazarus is called out of death to be in the same place and with the same people, and with all the same difficulties. Jesus says plainly his purpose that “they might believe”. The final sentence is “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.”
During my time under the pall, rather than burial wrappings, I will be wrapped in a litany prayer imploring all of God’s people who have gone before me into eternal life to pray for me because I am not buried in this ceremony for my own sake. I am buried and called forth by Christ into a life of prayer and service that you may believe and live.
Ana Cloughly, OSB