The Beautiful in the Terrible
Updated: Sep 1
Resurrection happens even as we are swamped by overwhelm, pain and grief. In the garden where Jesus had been laid in a tomb, Mary Magdalene discovered that beautiful and terrible things can happen at the same time. Amid her deep grief at the death of her teacher and friend Jesus, she discovered the empty tomb and ran to get others. After they left the scene, she encountered two angels. It was enough for anyone to lose their bearings! She turned, then turned again when Jesus called her name. And in the turning her heart caught up with her eyes and ears, and she recognized the beautiful in the terrible. In that moment she knew resurrection; she knew the risen Christ. (John 20:1-18).
Grief is messy and confusing, and in the middle of it we don’t always have clear bearings. What was once familiar and comforting; what we knew as love and life and heart, is gone, as it was with Mary Magdalene. Many of us have experienced this same disorientation in the last 3-4 years with the pandemic, the reckoning with racism and its ongoing effects, a near-insurrection here in the US, the rise in mass shootings, the increasing magnitude of natural disasters, and wars and rumors of war. It’s enough for anyone to lose their bearings!
Frequently through these last years, I’ve been reminded of fireweed, a wildflower sometimes
called resurrection flower. In the aftermath of mountain fires, resurrection flowers are often the first to sprout through the ashes. They are beautiful in the middle of the terrible. A single flash of that bright pink-purple hue amid the destruction speaks to resurrection in the aftermath of great loss, a sign that what was lost is finding its home in this renewing state. Life is renewed even as the signs of death and destruction remain visible, even as the wounds are still tender, even as our grief overwhelms us.
A fire often leaves a landscape of ashes and death. In our grief and pain, we can’t always see this for what it is — the precursor to resurrection. But eventually, sometimes achingly slow, or in a turn or two, we see it. We know it. Resurrected life right there in front of us. The beautiful in the middle of the terrible. Christ risen from the grave. And like Mary Magdalene, all we can do is shout to the world, “I have seen the Lord!”
–Sr. Miriam Elizabeth, OSH
How have you experienced the beautiful in the midst of the terrible? When have you turned and seen resurrection?
Philip Higuera, photographer. Used with permission.