by Aaron Alford
(photo: The Garden Tomb, Israel)
No light could be seen from inside the cave. The cold air held the scent of rock and moss and the lingering odour of bitter herbs. The silence was palpable, hovering in the tomb like the Spirit on the face of the deep.
A body lay on the stone shelf, its unnatural stillness betraying any illusion of sleep. For all the beautifying shrouds so carefully wrapped around it, and the precious blossoms placed upon the swaddling cloths, this was a corpse. His friends had done their best to dress the wounds, in some unreasoning and unspoken hope that even in death these wounds might heal, but the reality remained, and they were gruesome. He looked as though he had been mauled to death, and the truth was not far from it. It had taken hours to dress his wounds, long enough for tears to give way to silence and the quiet business at hand. Finally, his mother had wiped the blood from his face. She caressed his pallid brow, placed the last shroud upon his head, and kissed him through the veil.
There was evening and there was morning, and evening and morning. The third day.
The cold air of night lingered inside the tomb, and the ground was cool to the touch. All was still, but for the movement of a beetle, and so silent that its footsteps could be heard as it skittered across the wall.
Then in that silence, a breath.
Light filled the cave like lightning, and for a moment cast a deep, black shadow beneath the feet of the beetle.
The lungs which had sat silent since Friday resumed their interrupted rhythm of rising and falling. The man sat up on one elbow as the white cloths fell gently from his body. He took a deep draught of crisp, cold air, and smiled. The scent of the cave delighted him, especially the scent of myrrh emanating from his burial shroud. He stood, and he seemed to be clothed in robes made of light itself. He turned and looked at the burial cloths. He smiled again, noticing the faint imprint his form and that flash of light had left on them. The shrouds were wrinkled from the absence of his body, and he remembered something his mother had told him about making his bed. He folded them neatly and placed them on the stone shelf. The blossoms which had adorned the edges he arranged in an impromptu bouquet. The beetle came to inspect them. He held out his finger and the bug crawled on, and he surveyed the beetle as the beetle surveyed his scars. The marks, which had seemed so horrible only an hour before, practically glowed now with beauty.
He set the beetle back down, turned to the sealed mouth of the cave, and walked through it.
His face welcomed the sun, and his eyes took in every bright colour of the garden. Each leaf seemed to be the purest idea of the colour green. Each flowering blossom’s morning dew shone with the glow of a newborn. Even the ground beneath his feet seemed to blush with the ruddy warmth of a new mother. The world was alive, re-created, resurrected.
And as he walked from the tomb, in the cool of the morning, the stone rolled back from the crevice of its own accord, and the sun stole into the cave like the dawn of the first day of creation. And he looked, and saw that it was very good.