The Stone and the Tomb

Images in the Resurrection Event

[1] The greatest Sunday. Easter Sunday for Christians is the Sunday of Sundays because it is the day of the Lord’s Resurrection; they feel constrained to participate in the liturgical celebration as a fulfillment of the Church's precept; it is good but not enough; indeed, the liturgical celebration is an encounter with the resurrected Christ in the community of believers. The community is the first place of encounter with the risen Christ; every communal celebration has both personal and ecclesial dimensions in meeting the triumphant Christ.

[2] The tomb-ritual impurity. During the time of Jesus, a Jewish tomb was situated in a cave with other tombs; the place is considered impure and renders ritually impure anyone who enters therein; consequently, it impedes the person for at least a day to return to his community, particularly the synagogue service; ritual impurity separates the contaminated from the rest of the community – family, and friends; therefore, one may say to some extent that the person is as good as dead; this is the “excommunicating effects” of ritual impurity not only from the tomb but also from any other forms of impurity; to be freed from such impediment one had to bath, wash his clothes, and wait until sunset; afterward, he may resume his daily life (social, political, family, and religious).

[3] Absence of communications and oblivion. Due to this very inconvenient effect, the Jews try to observe the ritual laws. On the other hand, it is not the excommunicating effects that matter most but the separation from their family and friends. Furthermore, the tomb depicts the horrible effects of death (i.e., the absence of communication and forgetfulness). The loss of communication is not synonymous with silence because it could occur only among the living. Meanwhile, oblivion is the recession or a total cancellation of one's image in the human memory.

The tomb represents a lot of man’s deepest insecurities and personal issues that he tries to deny himself.

[4] The stone. There are at least two functions of the stone covering the grave; first, the stone covers the burial place to prevent the stinking odor of decomposing bodies from coming out: “Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days’.” (Jn 11:39). Second, the stone prevents the stealing of the linen wrapping of the corpse. The stone is big and heavy that needs at least two or more persons to roll it: “And they were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’ And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large” (Mk 16:3-4).

[5] Theological time. The image of “darkness” has both negative and positive meanings. Darkness is in the background of Judas' betrayal of Jesus (cf., Jn 13:30), where it has a negative connotation. Moreover, the birth of Jesus in the Gospel according to Luke 2:8 contrasts against the obscurity as the shepherds were watching the fold while in the Gospel according to John the resurrection event took place also within the context of darkness: “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (Jn 20:1). The “darkness” indicates the idea either uncertainty or hopelessness or maybe both. In the dark was born the Light of the world that defeats darkness in human hearts (e.g., emptiness, frustrations, hatred, desperation, etc.).

[6] Resurrection. In such a setting, the resurrection took place; the Lord is risen in the most impure place and removed the covering stone of the grave; in the domicile of death, life rose; in the dwelling of tears, joy was restored; in the spot of the end, the eternity dawned; in a condition of desperation, hope secured; the Light overcame the darkness of the tomb.

The life-giving power of the Risen Lord is more powerful than anything that destroys life.

[7] Representation. The tomb represents a lot of man’s deepest insecurities and personal issues that he tries to deny himself; the tomb is like the ground where a man hides his secrets and keeps it locked with the pretense of courage and rigorous professionalism; he locks himself within his frustrations and hatred and covers it that no one can reach him; yet, he longs to see the light outside his tomb; he wants to become free from the tomb which he carved in the hard rock of life.

[8] Removal. Unless the angels remove the stone, the daylight will not shine on man and see clearly his issues, pains, and frustrations; he cannot encounter the angel to tell him that the Lord has resurrected. Usually, shame and frustrations hinder the resurrection event in one’s life. He should let himself become the tomb of the Crucified Lord; let Christ lay down in his shameful experiences and sins where the resurrection will occur and transform the image of oneself.

[9] Transformation. The encounter with the Resurrected Christ transforms and empowers the people involved in this event (like the women who become the first evangelizers); their fears and confusion changed into joy. It challenges everyone to become a witness of Easter joy amidst the tears of brokenness. Let those people sent by God open one’s grave for him to meet the Risen Lord. Allow Christ to resurrect in the most shameful part of oneself; so that he will become a witness to the transforming power of the Risen Lord.


Fra Alfonsus D. Panaligan, OFMConv., SThD
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