Paul Greenberg

"The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away. Then she runneth and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

"And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni;which is to say, Master."

-From the Gospel according to John

I've become an old woman now, and it all makes a kind of sense to me, the way a joke does when it finally dawns on you, and you have to laugh out loud. Of course! Everything falls into its absurd, magnificent place in a blinding flash, like fireworks exploding out of the pitch-black sky, sending pattern after pattern high above and all around, ever closer and closer, and you're a child again who's never seen anything so beautiful or overwhelming.

What a solemn fool I was, don't you know? I was expecting the worst, of course. As we all were, I suppose. Oh, we of little faith! Or else we wouldn't have believed the worst when actually the best was at hand. The worst, we are always prepared to believe. The best takes faith.

Some more tea, dear? Yes, it is good. Orange pekoe, I think they call it, delicate but with sweet undertones, it says on the box, whatever that means. I myself have no idea. But I used to believe that sort of thing-that one could go by the label, by outward things.

That's why I'd read the script so wrong that first Easter. I was all set to see a tragedy, you see, and instead it turned out to be a comedy, the grandest and most glorious of comedies, complete with the happiest of endings.

That's the way it was with me, anyway, that Sunday morning. The sadness, the awfulness of it I understood instinctively. I'd been prepared for it by the kind of life I'd led. I knew what men were like, what life was like, and that neither ends well. I'd swallowed every cliche: Don't get your hopes up, promises are made to be broken, never give a sucker an even break . . . and all the rest.

I was perfectly prepared for how bad Good Friday would be, but Easter Sunday? My dear, that was quite beyond me. How could I have understood? You might as well have tried to describe sight to the blind, music to the deaf, belief to the cynical. My reality was limited to the evidence of things seen, the substance of things feared.

The empty tomb should have been proof of hope; I saw it only as cause for despair.

So when I saw the gardener-for who else could he be?-I wept and wailed and pleaded. I wanted to wallow in my grief; that was one thing I thought no one could take from me. I held on to it like a treasure.

Then I heard my name. How puzzling: How could the gardener have known me? That's when I turned. And I realized who had spoken to me, and who The Gardener was, and the whole, fake world was gone, the curtain lifted, the night shattered forever as the sun rose Easter morning. He had risen.

Funny how all you need is to be called by your right name and turn. You have to turn, you know. So you can really see. Only then does everything fall into place.

Surely you've felt that way when you've been in love, wanting only to serve the other, asking for nothing else, knowing it to be the purest happiness. This was like that, only forever.

More tea, dear? No? Perhaps something stronger? I'd join you in a sherry, but I don't need it. I've been intoxicated with life and love ever since that moment when it hit me. The gardener! My dear, I had no idea.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.