Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Coronavirus Pastoral Letter 8 12th April 2020 (Easter Day)

12th April 2020
Pastoral Letter No. 8

Fr Andrew writes:

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Easter Day is a day of great rejoicing, promise and hope. It is not to diminish the current crisis, and the anguish so many people are in, if we continue to proclaim all those things.

However, coronavirus, and its impact upon peoples lives and wider society globally, forces us to pay closer attention to the nature of the Easter hope and our response to the Resurrection of Christ. It reminds us that the Easter hope is not vacuous, frothy or trivial, but deep rooted in realities that are in human experience and also transcend our experience.

The Church’s proclamation goes beyond ‘Happy Easter’, eggs and bunnies, because our proclamation is that ‘Christ is risen’.

In the Gospels the first Easter Day, the Day of Resurrection, is marked by emptiness, tears, blurred vision and fear.

Emptiness. The first Easter proclamation is one of emptiness, ‘He is not here, he is risen’. The tomb in which Jesus’ lifeless body had been lain was empty. It speaks of despair first not hope, a snatched body not a resurrected one.

Tears and Blurred Vision. It is striking how on that first Easter Day there was a total lack of recognition. It is so often true that we don’t see things that we don’t expect to see even if they’re there.

Mary Magdalene could not see clearly through her tears. She mistook Jesus for a Gardener at first (John 20.11-18). Mary’s vision slowly cleared as Jesus called her by name and spelt out what had happened.

Likewise the disciples on the road to Emmaus did not see who was walking along with them until the opening of scripture and the breaking of bread finally opened their eyes to Jesus (Luke 24.13-35). ‘They recognised him in the breaking of bread’ is a scene beautifully portrayed in the reredos in our St Nicholas Chapel, but it wasn’t instant recognition.

Fear. The women who came to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ dead body fled with ‘terror and amazement’ ‘for they were afraid’ and it seemed ‘an idle tale’. (Matthew 28.6; Mark 16.6; Luke 24.5) Matthew’s gospel does at least suggest there was joy within the terror.

The first reaction of the gathered disciples on the Day of Resurrection was fear and the instinct to lock themselves away, what we would now call ‘social isolation’ (John 20.19). That fear was only dispelled by the presence of Jesus breathing his peace upon them.

Easter in a time of Coronavirus A church packed with flowers, people, music and praise on Easter morning doesn’t often give space for emptiness, tears and blurred vision and fear. The time we are in now does give that space, though we may not want it. We observe Easter in our own homes. Easter is not about froth; it is about the void of our lives being filled with the One who literally full-fills us; it is about the patient and growing recognition of the gift of life in Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen Lord; it is about acknowledging our fears and yet not being locked into them, but rather liberated through the ‘peace of God which surpasses all understanding’ because that is what ‘guards [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4.7).

In the emptiness, tears, blurred vision and fear of our current times may you still know the deep hope and promise of the Resurrection of Christ:

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

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