The Two Angels and the Linen Cloths

“Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;  for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  Then the disciples went back to their homes.  But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.” (John 20:6-12)

“When the Ark was placed definitively in the Temple of Jerusalem, that empty space became the place of God’s glory, power and presence. And on the Feast of Atonement (Yom Kippur), when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to perform the rite of atonement, that empty space between the two cherubim (in Greek, hilasterion: instrument of atonement) was transformed into the place where God cancelled all the sins of his people (cf. Ex. 25:22; Lv. 16:15-16). Emptiness, therefore, is the space God needs in order to continue to meet, speak with and forgive his children. In the light of Easter morning, between the angels in the empty tomb, Mary met the risen Lord: the eternal sacrifice of atonement of the New Covenant (cf. Rm. 3:25-26), the “place” where the loving mercy of God is present until the end of time.”  (Fr. Renato D’Auria)

“Later on the Day of Atonement, once the various rituals involving the sacrifice of the sin offerings and the application of blood to the mercy seat had been performed, the high priest then removed the plain linen garments. These were to be left in the sanctuary (Lev 16:23), and the regular garments put back on. Aaron then emerged from the tabernacle newly clothed to turn his attention to the matter of burnt offering (v. 24), that is, the עוֹלָה, the offering that “ascends.” This sequence of events may be compared in the Gospel to the removal of the linen grave clothes, neatly left in the burial chamber (John 20:5–7), the implicit emergence of Jesus, now reclothed, and his speaking to Mary of the issue of his “ascending” (v. 17). Furthermore, there is a correspondence between the goal of the burnt offering and the ascending of Christ. The Lord specified to Mary that his ascension had a twofold aspect: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” The possessive pronoun “your” is not restricted to Mary, but is plural […] apparently referring to Mary and those that Jesus termed “my brothers,” that is, the disciples […] the dual aspect of this “ascending” is matched by a similar duality in the final burnt offering ritual of the Day of Atonement. The high priest was to present “the burnt-offering for himself and the burnt-offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people” (Lev 16:24).” (Nicholas P. Lunn)

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