By: Martha Bowden
In the Old Testament lesson on the first Sunday in Lent, we heard the story of the beauty and perfection of the first garden and the acts of disobedience that resulted in the arrival of death for human kind and the expulsion of the first gardeners from their original home. They wander through the desert, with mortality ahead of them and an angel holding a fiery sword behind them.
On Easter Sunday, we return to a garden with Mary as she arrives at Jesus’ tomb; death is not an interloper here but the purpose of this garden’s existence. In this story we also have a gardener, the reminder of death, and watchful angels. But the trajectory of the story is reversed; death has been overturned, the tomb is empty, the angels are benevolent, and the gardener turns out to be Jesus himself, unrecognizable until he speaks.
Gardens are associated with life, rest, privacy, and beauty. They are refreshment for the weary, gathering places, sources of food, and shade from the sun. A garden is a living representation of hope and attachment to place: no one plants a garden who doesn’t plan to stay there. But they also represent work. Because no garden is ever finished, every garden needs a gardener.
How appropriate then that on Easter morning we should return to the garden with Mary and that she, through her tears, should think that her Savior is a gardener. What better way to think of the Incarnate God, whose work of salvation has undone the sin of the first gardeners, and who nourishes us so that we too can flourish? We with Mary can wipe our tears and proclaim the Resurrection.
Our journey through Lent to this miraculous moment is the movement from death to life; the desert and prayer moments and the deeply moving liturgies of Holy Week lead us to this glorious morning. We return to the transformed garden and we sing with one voice,