In the film, “A Beautiful Mind,” there is a scene where the mathematician and Nobel laureate, John Nash, proposes to his girlfriend. When she says yes, he asks for proof of her love. She responds obliquely by asking him how big is the universe. He says that it is infinite. She then asks for proof of his sweeping statement. He says that he just knows it, that it can be inferred from the convergent possibilities of the stars and galaxies, of space and time. She insists nonetheless if any proof can be found. He replies that ultimately he can only believe it. Well then, there you have it; she doesn’t even have to prove her love; only the stars in her eyes reveal it.
We can only believe in love. On Easter eve, we are astonished that love should still be given in exchange for our betrayal, that mercy should still be offered in return for cruelty, and that the gates of Paradise should even reopen at Calvary. On Easter, new life is given as the reciprocal of death. We can only believe this mysterious exchange and equivalence and logic of love.
It is difficult to believe this love. We look at the schizophrenic layers of our lives, at our capacity for delusion and deception, and we wonder. We wonder whether redemption is real, whether Easter itself might be the delusion. We see how evil endures and we ask whether evil itself, not Easter, might be more compelling. As TIME essayist, Lance Morrow, describes it:
Evil has its physics. It is a current that passes through the world, and through the human heart. It manifests itself sometimes in violent acts; it often makes itself invisible, like an electromagnetic flow, a dark, humming force field. Evil is much more active and surprising than gravity, but like gravity, it is mysterious. It may hide itself in deep and ancient caves.
And yet, Easter grace comes to us through an empty cave. We stand in this empty cave, staring at the blood stained burial cloths and we believe that Love indeed is risen. We stand in this empty tomb, gazing at the linen stains, His wounds that are our wounds, and we are grateful that we can still believe that love is stronger than death, that love is the reciprocal of our smallness, and that love, like the universe, is infinite. Inside this empty tomb, we know that what has been given us this Easter eve, we do not deserve.
The brilliant mathematician, John Nash, who probed the depths of equilibrium dynamics to understand how we behave (or misbehave), was himself a displaced individual, mired in disequilibrium, unsteady as a ship foundering on dark and dangerous waters. We wonder where the beauty lies in such a disheveled mind, and we discover this not in his intelligence, not in his power to catch the luminous patterns shifting beneath reality. The beauty is not in the power. The beauty, the hidden grace, rather, of such a mind is in its utter vulnerability. It is there in the weakness that throws him to the ground, there in his desperation and anxiety, in his panic for security and consistency and love.
Without Easter, we would not have readily seen such grace and beauty rising from the ruins. The new life of Easter is the third axis that gives depth and perspective to our flat two-dimensional lives.
How we have come to deserve all this beautiful grace, perhaps we shall never know. It is like love that lives in secret, enduring, as the poet Neruda writes, “between the shadow and the soul.”
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride:
so I love you because I know no other way
than this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.
All this is grace beyond mathematical definition. This Easter eve, in Eucharist, we shall receive You our God in our lives again, as someone who lives in us, who stays with us even through our dysfunctional moments, so intimate that when we sleep, it is Your eyes that close; so intimate that when we mourn, it is Your tears that fall; so intimate that when we rejoice, it is Your smile that rises.
No schizophrenia here. Only an identity and loving equivalence, a convergent pattern that reveals the direction of this cruciform and gracious Easter love. We are Your beloved. Not even the size of this universe will hinder You from coming so close to us in love.
Let us therefore love the God who lives in us, by loving one another.
Let us accept his forgiveness as we forgive our selves and each other.
Let us go to rise with God, by lifting the hearts and burdens of one another.
We have been given a beautiful grace that is as early as Paradise and as infinite as the universe. We believe it. We know it. And we don’t even have to prove it.
[by Fr. Jet Villarin, SJ]
About Jett Villarin, SJ
Fr. Jett is a Filipino Jesuit priest and scientist, who is the university president of Ateneo de Manila University. He received the National Outstanding Young Scientist award in 2000, and the Outstanding Book Award for “Disturbing Climate” in 2002. He is also an active member of several local and international environment and climate committees, such as the United Nations’ Consultative Group of Experts for Developing Countries, and the Inter-Agency Committee on Climate Change, among others.