Horror Vacui – Johnny Go, SJ

John 20:1-9, Easter Vigil

Two great mysteries bookend our Lord’s lives–and they feel so different from each other. At the beginning, of course, is the birth of our Lord, which we celebrate at Christmas, and in the end, we have his resurrection, which we commemorate today as Easter.

The Christmas narrative seems to happen in slow motion, as if unfolding to a peaceful Christmas carol. All the Easter stories, on the other hand, seem to be always on fast forward. There’s a lot of confusion and a lot of frantic running around.


After the women discovered the empty tomb, they fled. Some versions mention an angel telling them, “Go quickly!” Others have them running into the Risen Lord, who said the same: “Go to the disciples!” In today’s reading, after hearing Mary Magdalene’s report, Peter and John virtually raced each other towards the tomb and indeed found it as the women had reported.

All this running should remind us of our often fast-paced lives and invite us to question our own running. Do we spend enough energy running towards the Lord–or do we really just end up running around like headless chickens? It’s a great reminder for us to wonder if we should do more discernment to monitor the direction of our energies.

What are you running for anyway?

Going back to the disciples of Easter, it’s almost strange that they were running towards an empty tomb. Come to think of it, Easter confronts us with our horror vacui. That’s a Latin phrase I learned decades ago in a college freshman class with the late great Dr. Doreen Fernandez, from whom I learned how to write. Discussing the “Filipino taste,” she said, “We Filipinos seem to have horror vacui–which is the fear of empty spaces.”

While Christmas offers us a child in a manger, Easter furnishes us with an empty tomb. It invites us to face the empty spaces of our lives–and our fear of them. Is that what we spend all our days running away from? The problem is, as we have learned this Holy Week, the fullness of life is found in these very empty spaces. Unless we are able to face–and accept–the emptiness inside us, we will not find the Risen Lord because it is there that he resides. He knows that only when we get in touch with our existential emptiness will we ever begin any search for Him.

So how do you feel about all that emptiness in your life? Have you been filling  it up with all sorts of stuff–or are have you been fleeing it?

So here are two Easter questions for you to think about: “What–and who–are you doing all that running for?”

And: “How would you feel about inhabiting the empty spaces of your life?”

The painting of Peter and John running to Jesus’ tomb has quite a significant personal meaning for me. I picked it almost two decades ago to be printed on the prayer card I gave out to family and friends when I was ordained a priest. Tomorrow, the 17th of April, I remember my ordination to the priesthood exactly 19 years ago.

This Easter morning I bless the Lord for giving me the opportunity to run this race for me, and I give Him thanks for all the many people I’ve run into, as well as all those who’ve joined me and consistently supported me in this race– including all the times I may have unwittingly run off the tracks. Thanks, guys!

Please pray for me and my companions that the Lord may always give us a second wind.

From pinsoflight.net

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