From Darkness to Light
Thursday, April 25, 2019
Anything exposed by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated turns into light. That is why it is said:
Wake up, sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.
—Ephesians 5:13-14 (Jerusalem Bible)
At the resurrection, Jesus was revealed as the eternal and deathless Christ in embodied form. Basically, one circumscribed body of Jesus morphed into ubiquitous Light. Light is perhaps the best metaphor for Christ or God.
For most of the first six centuries of Christianity, the moment of Jesus’ resurrection was deemed unpaintable or uncarvable.  The event is not even directly described as such in the New Testament. All we see are the aftermath stories—stunned guards, seated angels, visiting women, and other resurrections: “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of those who had fallen asleep were raised up” (see Matthew 27:51-53). Note how resurrection was already corporately understood in this telling verse.
After the resurrection stories, more followers dared to see Jesus as “the Lord”—or at least as one with the Lord, understood as “Son of God.” One could say Jesus is gradually revealed as “Light,” especially in the three accounts of the “Transfiguration” (Matthew 17:1–8; Mark 9:2–8; Luke 9:28–36). These are likely transplanted resurrection accounts, as is the story of Jesus walking on the water.
Most of us, if we are listening and looking, also have such resurrection moments in the middle of our lives, when “the veil parts” now and then. Jesus says, “Believe in the light so that you also may become children of the light” (John 12:36), letting us know that we participate in the same mystery, and he is here to aid the process.
Back in 1967, my systematic theology professor, Fr. Cyrin Maus, OFM, told us that if a video camera had been placed in front of Jesus’ tomb, it wouldn’t have filmed a lone man emerging from a grave (which would be resuscitation more than resurrection). More likely, he felt, it would’ve captured something like beams of light extending in all directions.
In the resurrection, the single physical body of Jesus moved beyond all limits of space and time into a new notion of physicality and light—which includes all of us in its embodiment. Christians called this the “glorified body,” and it is similar to what Hindus and Buddhists sometimes call the “subtle body.” This is pictured by a halo or aura, which Catholics placed around “saints” to show that they already participated in the one shared Light.
This is for me a very helpful meaning for the resurrection of Jesus, which might be better described as Jesus’ “universalization,” a warping of time and space, if you will. Jesus was always objectively the Universal Christ, but his significance for humanity and for us was made ubiquitous, personal, and attractive for those willing to meet Reality through him. Many do meet Divine Reality without this “shortcut,” and we must be honest about that. Only “by the fruits will you know” (Matthew 7:16–20). People who are properly aligned with Love and Light—“enlightened”—will always see in holistic ways, regardless of their denomination or religion.
 See John Dominic Crossan and Sara Sexton Crossan, Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision (HarperOne:2018), 45-59.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 176-178.