Sunday, 29 April 2012

Walking into Easter

Today in the Cathedral we held our Easter service Stations of the Resurrection. This was an hour long procession round the Cathedral (no sitting down). Each station symbolised an aspect of the Easter story. At each one we stopped to hear a Bible reading, listen to the choir and turn our reflection into a short prayer. As we walked between stations we sang favourite Easter hymns. We ended the journey round the shrine of St Cuthbert, the spiritual heart of the Cathedral. Afterwards there were festive drinks and nibbles in the Chapter House.

Walking is such a powerful symbol of life. And because new life begins on Easter Day, a processional journey to celebrate it is a good way of walking into its meaning. There's a lot of movement in the Easter stories we read this afternoon. We heard about the women who made journeys to Jesus' tomb in the early morning of Easter Day, only to be shocked to find it empty. We heard about the two forlorn disciples walking back from Jerusalem to Emmaus who were joined by the stranger who turned out to be the risen Lord himself. We heard about the invitation to go to Galilee where they would meet him.

It takes time to absorb what Easter means. It's too big to take it all in on Easter Day: that's why we have 50 days of Eastertide in which to make the truth of resurrection our own. I love the idea of walking into Easter, discovering how with each step of the journey it grasps hold of us, becomes more and more a part of us. 'We are an Easter people, and alleluia is our song': but we have to give ourselves time to learn how to sing it. Indeed, it surely takes a lifetime to plumb the depths of this Easter music, this new song of the gospel.

In our Cathedral, there is a wonderful Easter garden in the Galilee Chapel. It is in a big cave-like niche. To one side is an immense disc like a huge mill-stone that has been rolled away. The grave-cloths are folded up on the ground; there are jugs with anointing oils, shrubs to recall the garden and at the rear of the cave the three crosses of Golgotha. It is a startling and beautiful image of Easter. We stood there and heard the story of the empty tomb, the place where everything is transformed, where all things become new.

Later we sang the Easter hymn 'Jesus lives'. And I thought of Clive, my daughter's partner who drowned a year ago tomorrow. And of so many people who are hurting, and of the pain of the world that is sometimes beyond bearing. Yet 'even at the grave we sing alleluia': that's what Easter means. Today we walked a little further into believing that 'death is swallowed up in victory'. And tomorrow, and every one of the 50 days, we shall take a few more steps on the journey of Easter when life begins again.

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