Doubt and the Easter Women: A Paschal Letter

marymagdalenetombBy Rebecca Curtin
Dear God,

This Lent I have been filled with doubt.

But, soon all that will be washed away for Easter is about certainty, right? Today we celebrate The Great Truth: Your Son Is Risen. Alleluia, Alleluia! (Well, sort of. We still can’t seem to get the date right, and all Christians do not celebrate Your rising together. I have to wait a whole week to say “Christos Anesti!” to my boyfriend.)

Last week I reread parts of Your Holy Book, and I was noticing some empty space. The Gospels do not describe the moment Jesus, Your son, rises from the dead. We see him die, hear his last words, witness the wrapping of his body by Joseph of Arimathea, the stone rolled over the tomb, and then…empty, doubtful space until…an angel announces “He is risen”. Then, Jesus walks the road to Emmaus, he dines with the apostles, they see his wounds, realizing that he has come back to them. As children we possess the certainty of his rising, because on that holy morning we wake up to treats and colored eggs. We are reminded of his eternal presence with transitory (and delicious) presents.

And the women? What part did You save for us? A big one! – I remember being told in CCD – for we were the first to see the empty tomb. That transitional space betwixt death and life is where the women live in this story, between the certainty of death and the uncertainty of its defeat. They are the witnesses at the tomb, the first messengers of the Good News, the faithful servants bringing the spices for his body, spices whose purpose is left – joyfully – unfulfilled. They come on that first day of the week as life gets back to normal out of duty, out of love. They do not expect the day to be holy.
And I am still filled with doubt. Empty of Your presence, I have been simmering. For forty-six days I have been reminded each time I forgo eating cheese (my Lenten sacrifice, as You know) that I am part of a church that displays the largest and most decorative palm frond on Palm Sunday (ahem, Freud), and that I am a graduate of a Catholic university that is contemplating revoking their invitation to the President of the United States to speak at commencement because of the loud objections of its conservative members. For whom do I sacrifice? On whose behalf do I repent? It is hard to cast off the weight of the Church from ones shoulders. I thought I was supposed to give up something to become immersed in You. But, when I thought about You I saw them, and I would doubt it all.

But then I think of these moments: the moment the women who come to tend to Jesus’ body realize the tomb is open, the moment they peer into the cave and see the angel(s) of the Lord, the moment when Mary Magdalene meets the living Jesus. I think of the devotion, the recognition of holiness, and the beautiful proclamation Mary makes to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”

Will you bring me into your presence again, God? I’ve been missing it, and I feel empty. I am looking for You in the vacant tomb and am dismayed by the burial clothes scattered about, purposeless, concealing nothing. But, this is not where I should look for You, because You have won. Here are Your angels proclaiming Your Resurrection.

I think of this day of Truth seeing, and embrace doubt. I release the steam, the strife and the loneliness of the past forty-six days. God, where have You been? But You are back; You are with us. Maybe things will look brighter now. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Yours always,


Rebecca Curtin will continue to not eat cheese for the next week in solidarity with the Eastern Orthodox Christians, after which she will devour the large frozen pizza that has been stored in her freezer for the past forty-six days. She hopes beyond hope that Notre Dame will not rescind its invitation to Obama, and she can’t wait to hear what he will say at commencement.


2 Responses

  1. Beautiful!

  2. Amen. Happy Easter!

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