To the members and parishioners of Crail linked with St Ayle
The Bulgarians and Belarusians call it ‘The Great Day’. The Greeks and Armenians say it is ‘Resurrection’. The Hungarian and Estonian words for it mean ‘buying meat’. In many cultures it is some variation of Pasqual from the Hebrew, Pascha, or Passover. Easter was a name first used in the eighth century. The English title for the day derives from Eostre, the Teutonic goddess of fertility whose symbol appropriately was the rabbit, hence the Easter bunny.
The Koreans call it, ‘Resurrection Season’ and the Latvians and Lithuanians name it ‘The Great Days’. They may be right. Easter is a season, not just one day, but fifty days of feasting and celebrating new life, ten days longer than Lent, which tells us something about the true priorities of the Church.
Yet now in the lock down and the negative impact on young and old, the economy and the NHS, the anxiety shared by medical experts, the uncertainty in forecasts about when the crisis may be over and the dilemmas of politicians, there can only be limited public celebration of Easter this year. Yet, the message of Easter, God’s victory over the powers of evil and darkness, remains the same, even when we cannot gather physically to proclaim the hope and promise of Easter.
We have heard expressions of impotence from those with great knowledge when they wrestle with this invisible menace to our lives. There may be more depressing news about the numbers affected, and the suffering of families devastated by bereavement and inability to be with those who are in hospital dangerously ill.
There is little point in being foolish and not recognise the reality of the situation. That option is to deny the gifts of science and medical expertise which God has given us and the talents and activities of the wonderful ancillary workers whose efforts are often not noticed, but are critical to our functioning as a community. The essential core of the Message of the Gospel is that of hope in the midst of suffering and grief.
The journey of Holy Week has been perhaps all the more relevant this year, when there is so much sadness and anger, and sense of injustice in our minds and experience regarding what is being endured. The journey of Jesus to Golgotha and the events of Good Friday are a timely reminder of God’s identification with us in all our difficulties and seemingly impossible and unbearable sufferings. Then, after Holy Saturday, there is the promise of Easter. An assurance given to us that God will work miracles of new life and hope. These may not come exactly when we want, or in the way we might do it ourselves.
In a very real sense we are living between Good Friday and Easter Day at this time, blessed with the knowledge (which the first disciples did not have) that there is hope and comfort, encouragement and light coming. We are to live expectantly, watching for the dawn, knowing that the Easter message of victory, will come in God’s time, depending on our listening, our engagement and our cooperation.
It is not easy to be patient. There are all sorts of temptations facing us, and we need the guidance of God to strengthen us and protect us. It is my hope that by Pentecost, the conclusion of the Easter Season, on the 31st of May, we may be experiencing some of the positive changes that we long to see and anticipate. There is no guarantee, however, and I cannot predict the future. Feasting and celebrating new life will come in due time, but not immediately. We are to be inspired by the creative love of Easter promise that there is hope for the Great Days to arrive and change our world and attitudes. May we live to echo the triumphant cry. ‘Christ is risen. He is risen indeed’.
Nigel J Robb (Revd)
Interim Moderator of Crail linked with St Ayle