By the time this edition is published, Easter Day will seem some time ago. The eager anticipation of children for chocolate eggs will have passed. The school holidays will be over. There will be no more unnecessary media storms over a venerable institution, like the National Trust, dropping the word “Easter” from their publicity. Instead our society is now looking forward to further long weekends and the summer holidays.
Yet the Church of God does not forget Easter, once Easter Day has come and gone. We call several Sundays after Easter Day “the Xth Sunday of Easter”. The liturgical colour is white, which is a festival colour. We keep the Easter candle in the sanctuary to represent the 40 days, which Jesus is believed to have spent with his disciples from the first Easter Day to His ascension. All the services during this joyful season are marked by a tone of rejoicing and gladness. We encounter the Risen Christ in our worship as He reveals his presence with us through the scriptures and the breaking of bread in Holy Communion. We rejoice in the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn:
“Vain the stone, the watch, the seal
Christ has burst the gates of hell;
Death in vain forbids his rise;
Christ has opened paradise.”
In keeping with this joyful proclamation, the deacon at the end of the Parish Eucharist bids the people to
“Go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia, Alleluia.”
The people respond appropriately
“Thanks be to God. Alleluia, Alleluia.”
Alleluia, or Hallelujah, means “Praise you the Lord”. We must surely respond to the deacon’s invitation loudly and robustly!
Yet the Church’s faith is an Easter faith all the year round. Every time the Church gathers to worship, it is doing so in the profound faith that, in the words of the Creed,
“On the third day [Jesus Christ] rose again
He ascended into heaven
And is seated at the right hand of the Father.”
Ours is a Resurrection faith!
Thomas Merton was one of the most profound writers about the Christian faith in the 20th century. On Easter Day 1950 he wrote this:
“The grace of Easter is a great silence, an immense tranquillity and a clean taste in your soul. It is the taste of heaven, but not the heaven of some wild exultation. The Easter vision is not riot and drunkenness of spirit but a discovery of order above all order – a discovery of God and of all things in Him. This is wine without intoxication, a joy that has no poison hidden in it. It is life without death. Tasting it for a moment, we are briefly able to see and live all things according to their truth; and to possess them in their substance hidden in God, beyond all sense”.[i]
It is my prayer that this Eastertide and way beyond the season, you also will be able to taste the glorious Easter vision!
God bless you all
[i] Thomas Merton “The Sign of Jonas”