A Holy Emptiness
By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin of Walnut Creek, CA, USA
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises….
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity. -Psalm 98:4, 7-9 NRSV
It’s hard to explain how emptiness can be a good thing. It seems as if we are always trying to fill empty spaces, not keep them open. I put pictures on barren walls and flowers on barren tables. I fill shelves with books and an empty stomach with good food. I fill the silence in the car by turning on the radio, the silence between friends with conversation.
What is so threatening about emptiness? Why does the pulse quicken at the entrance of a cave, in deafening silence, or before ocean’s expanse? Why do we want to fill every bare counter, crowd every unfilled room? Perhaps the truth of our lives is waiting there-in the space we can’t bear to make, the emptiness we can’t bear to see. Maybe in the void is where new life is found.
During Lent we actually meant to open space, to remove some of the clutter from the rooms in our soul. A culture of accumulation blared around us while we walked the wilderness way. We have been seeking the more that comes in clearing out and letting go. We are seeking Spirit abundance which lives in the space we struggle to make. The Easter question is about the purpose of this space as it is being made. Do we make this space for Christ to fill, or for Christ to live?
In Mark’s Gospel, the sun had just risen as three women made their way to the tomb. When they saw the empty tomb, they were alarmed. The angel presence in the void tried to ease their fears, “He has been raised. He is not here.” What they had expected to fill the space was gone. They were greeted with a sacred absence, a holy emptiness. In the absence was what their hearts desired even as it caused them to tremble. “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them.”
What does it mean that Christ’s absence is a sure sign of resurrection? What does it mean that emptiness is the threshold to new life? What if we looked at the empty places in our lives as spaces not to fill but to hold open for the Holy to live?
This Easter season, spend more time in barren places. Resist the urge to fill the space. Revel in resurrection wonder that pounds in our hearts as terror and awe. What does the holy emptiness of the tomb mean in your life this year? May you find the courage to praise empty spaces and seek the living Christ who cannot be contained!
Spirit now live in me.
Breathe deeply and enter a few minutes of silence. Be attentive to where you sense new life emerging in you. Search your memories of the previous day. When did you notice the sacredness of life in surprising places or forms in the world around you?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
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