St. Michael‚Äôs Vicarage
Dear People of Alnwick,
I am writing this letter on the morning of Easter Monday with the ‚ÄėAlleluias‚Äô of Easter day still ringing in my ears.
What a splendid occasion Easter Day was in St. Michael‚Äôs! Even the sun played its part as so many people streamed into church to be met by the wonderful Easter Garden in the porch. The proclamation ‚ÄúCHRIST IS RISEN!‚ÄĚ was greeted with the firm response ‚ÄúHE IS RISEN INDEED!‚ÄĚ and our worship continued in that celebratory vein before the children demonstrated egg-rolling in the aisle and then disappeared, full of excitement, into the churchyard for their Easter egg hunt!
How very different the ambiance of the church as I sat alone in St. Catherine‚Äôs Chapel this morning ‚Äúin the beauty of the lilies‚ÄĚ quietly saying Morning Prayer and reflecting on the gentle peace which the good news of Easter brings into our hearts.
In those two contrasting scenarios lies an important message about the way in which the resurrected Christ can come to us ‚Äď and stay with us ‚Äď as we journey on in faith.
In the noise, the excitement and the sheer exuberance of Easter morning, our joy and our confidence in the significance of the empty tomb stirs up in us a great party spirit: we are energised and spurred on by the fact that this, indeed, is ‚Äúthe day of resurrection‚ÄĚ.
But, in the quiet contemplation of Easter Monday with the vision of the risen Christ saying gently to his gathered friends ‚ÄúPeace be with you‚ÄĚ so, too, we proclaim the fact that ‚ÄúLove‚Äôs redeeming work is done‚ÄĚ.
In our lives of faith we all have Easter morning and Easter Monday experiences. Sometimes the knowledge of Christ‚Äôs victory over death and the grave makes us want to proclaim it from the rooftops; but, on other occasions, we simply want to bathe ourselves in the quiet certainty that Thomas was later to express in the unforgettable phrase, ‚ÄúMy Lord and my God‚ÄĚ.
When I visited the Holy Land a few years ago I was helped to appreciate the contrasting ways in which the risen Christ can be experienced.
After following the Way of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem we found ourselves in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which was so crowded and full of ‚Äėhype‚Äô and expectation that, after a short while, we were, quite frankly, glad to leave it all behind.
A few hours later, we visited the site of the Garden Tomb ‚Äď an alternative, but less probable setting for the events of the first Easter Day. Here, in quiet, unhurried contemplation, we were able to experience a sense of risen presence which was much harder to leave behind.
Whatever our situation in life (and, of course, there will be constant fluctuations) the risen Jesus is with us. Indeed, we have his assurance that he is with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20)
May the power of the cross,
the joy of the resurrection,
and the presence of our risen Lord
be with you now and always.
With every blessing,