Then the other disciple…also went in; he saw and he believed

This morning we emerge from the darkness of Easter night, a darkness pierced by the Paschal candle symbolically bearing the light of Christ, and we come into the full light of Easter daybreak. Last night our individual candles drew their light from the one light of Christ as a reminder that this must now become for each one of us a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.
We share this morning’s liturgy with other witnesses whose eyes are opened to the reality of Christ’s resurrection. As we were sprinkled with Easter water the Schola sang Vidi aquam – I saw water flowing from the Temple. It is an image that calls to mind our experience on Good Friday as we recognised the water flowing from the side of Christ upon the cross as the source of sacramental grace in the Church. With the eyes of faith we see within and beyond these signs their reality at the deepest level.
In the sequence Victimae paschali laudens we eagerly ask Mary of Magdala: tell us, Mary: say what thou didst see upon the way. We long to experience afresh the wonder and joy of Christ’s rising by asking Mary to relive that Easter morning and then we make her song our own: I saw Christ’s glory as he rose!
As we woke this morning we opened our eyes to another day in the little daily miracle of rising to life that our stirring from sleep always brings us. Our gratitude for life is heightened by the witnessing voices of this morning’s Gospel. They remind us too of the Christian communities of the Holy Land, whose way of life is under threat day by day because of political decisions or ideological opposition.
St John’s Gospel picks up the narrative from last night. Mary of Magdala has now overcome her fear and what she saw has made of her a witness, though as yet unable to interpret her experience. Perhaps it was her knowledge of the Lord’s confidence in Peter that made her run to him and the other disciple. Or it may have been that she recognised in Peter the fear that had made him deny the Lord. Peter, chosen by Christ to be the rock for others, must first be strengthened by the witness of Mary – he must see what she has already seen.
In the ways of God’s providence it was not Peter, but the disciple Jesus loved who next bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground – and yet it was not until Peter had gone into the tomb and had seen everything that he also went in; he saw and he believed. That life-changing journey of Peter and John on the way to the empty tomb is captured by the Swiss artist Eugène Burnand. He finished his famous painting of the two disciples running to the sepulchre in 1898 and I have asked for a copy to be displayed at the chapel door this morning.
It captures a look of bewilderment and anxiety on the face of John, whose eyes are almost closed as if searching and searching for a meaning within himself. But Peter’s eyes are wide open, staring ahead in wonder as if he has already glimpsed something of the significance of Mary’s news even before reaching the tomb. What they saw transformed their lives and it is clear from this painting that it had also transformed the artist’s life as he went on to bring other biblical scenes to life in France and Switzerland.
This Mass of Easter morning echoes the joy of the apostles as they began to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead. For the Seminary community it is a doubly joyful moment as you now look forward to the Easter Octave and the restful holiday with family or friends that it brings. I am delighted that we have been joined today by members of your own families assisting us in celebrating Easter together in such a joyful and memorable way.
I am also very grateful for the companionship that we have shared over the last fortnight with Archbishop Patrick, leading the Seminary in the pre-Holy Week retreat and taking a full part in our Chrism Mass and the celebration of the Easter Triduum at St Chad’s Cathedral. For all of us it has been a most welcome homecoming and we thank you for sharing with us your own joyful faith.
Like Mary of Magdala, Peter and John we are about to be sent out with the good news of the resurrection. We are called to be Spirit-filled evangelizers who are prepared to live the new life that the risen Christ has already won for us. Although your formation encourages you to look forward to serving as deacons and priest, you have no need to wait for ordination to take up the urgent task of being disciples.
As the Easter break begins I want to thank Fr Rector and all the Staff for your service within the seminary community and for undertaking the responsibility of assisting those in formation to come to a right discernment of their own discipleship of the Lord. As I step into another decade I give particular thanks for the ways of Providence that have led me to see and appreciate Christ’s light guiding my footsteps forward and I am profoundly grateful for the coincidence of dates that brings me here today.
May all of us, Staff and Seminarians with our families and friends, be blessed in these coming days of Eastertide with a renewed vision and a fresh understanding of the risen Lord. Like Mary Magdalen, Peter and John we must hasten to share with others our joy that the Lord is risen indeed and that he is with us always.