Jesus turned to her and said, “Mary”. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!”
What is lonelier than not being seen, not being known?
It is said that the Holy Spirit is the look of love that passes between the Father and the Son. Think of the look of love: think of how unafraid it is, how it sees every bit of us, and delights in what it sees. Think of the certainty that it produces, the certainty that we are understood.
It is this look that kindles in us our selfhood, gives us confidence to live, gives us ground to stand on.1
Some of us grew up unseen. Our parents, maybe, saw only the reflection of their own failures — or were too consumed with their own hurts to see us at all. Or our schoolmates looked and saw only our differences and kept their distance, as if our social leprosy was catching. Or, somehow, nobody saw us at all; we didn’t fit into any group, were outside of every plan. We were spare parts.
What happens when we are not given the look of love? We become afraid. We will go to any lengths to draw this look out of others, but we despair at the same time, because we know that the look is worth nothing unless it is given without our asking.
For this reason, this moment in the Gospel — at the empty tomb, when the risen Jesus calls Mary by name, and finally she recognizes him — is, for me, the essence of Easter. We are surrounded every day by Jesus, Jesus, Jesus:
…For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.2
He is all around us, but we cannot recognize him, because we have no self to recognize him with, until he calls our name, sees us. This seeing gives us a self, selves us; and once selved, we can respond to him, call him by his name — the name we have for him.
Mary calls him Rabboni, teacher: we might call him Master, or Friend, or Lover; we might call him My Hope, or My Expected One, or My Joy. It is out of our experience of God that we name God.3
When he calls us by name, we know our name; and once we know our own name, we can name him. By his light we see light.
O Lord! You know how incapable we are of celebrating Easter. You know how incomplete we are, how we do not have the wherewithal to name you unless you name us first.
Fill us with your name, which is our name; which is Joy. You see what fruit we will bear when we are whole, when we are alive. You see what life will brim from us then.
But first we must be selved, and nobody else can do it. Name us, Jesus, be our name!