Friday, 23 March 2018

Easter Fire

The Gospels do not describe the actual moment of Our Lord’s Resurrection. Having buried him in the tomb at the end of Good Friday, they describe instead the discovery of the empty tomb, and the realisation that he is alive, and present among the bewildered group of women and of his disciples. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John leave us with the effect and significance of the Resurrection, rather than the actual event itself.

While we are used to keeping Holy Week, as a series of stations on a journey, from Palm Sunday, to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, the early Church, tolerated at best as outsiders, and often persecuted, kept all these together, in what was clearly recognised as the most significant Worship Service of the year, as the night of Holy Saturday gave way to the dawn of Easter Day. Once those other days began to develop their own Liturgies, this great Easter Vigil, the Service of Fire and Water, and of Christ the heart of all creation, remained for much of the Church’s history as the one act of worship from which all others in the year take their meaning. It is now usually celebrated against the background of darkness, either at dawn or at dusk.

(Here in Elland, we will hold our Easter Vigil as darkness falls, beginning in the Cloisters at All Saints at 7pm on Holy Saturday. The Service lasts about 90 minutes, and will be followed by Festive Refreshments. We begin with the new Fire of Easter, before carrying the light into Church, and blessing the Easter Candle. After the Easter Scriptures, the Font is blessed, Baptismal Vows are re-affirmed, and the first Holy Mass of Easter is offered – it will be good to see you there!)

Having journeyed in penitence and prayer through the time of preparation that is the Season of Lent, the whole of the month of April falls in Eastertide. Our Sunday Gospels focus first of all on the Resurrection appearances of Jesus, as we, together with the Disciples, hear the voice of the one who is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Following Good Shepherd Sunday, the Gospel readings then begin to prepare us for our Lord’s Ascension, and the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

It is dangerous to play with fire, but the fire of divine love that is the risen and ascended Lord remains present in his Church, and invites us to walk afresh with him this Eastertide. One of my favourite Easter Poems is Alice Meynell’s ‘Easter Night,’ which captures something of that world-changing first Holy Saturday:

All night had shout of men
And cry of woeful women filled his way;
Until that noon of sombre sky
On Friday, clamour and display smote him;
No solitude had He,
No silence, since Gethsemane.

Public was death;
But power, but Might,
But life again, but Victory,
Were hushed within the dead of night,
The shuttered dark, the secrecy.
And all alone, alone, alone,
He rose again behind the stone

May the Risen Christ grant us the joy of the resurrection life.

Fr David