Fr Alistair's Easter Message
Updated: Apr 25, 2020
When some of us gathered together for the parish Day of Recollection on Saturday 29th February, part of the day was spent reflecting on Lent, Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum illustrated with images of paintings. At the time I had wondered about the wisdom of anticipating the whole of the Lent and Easter season even before it had properly begun; now I find it a real source of blessing and consolation that some of us at least made that journey together since, subsequently, it has not been possible to do so as the parish family.
The circumstances in which we currently find ourselves have been described by one bishop as “a long Good Friday” and as “an extended Holy Saturday” by another priest. For my Lenten reading this year I have been immersing myself in the selected works and complete letters of the Rev. Prof. Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), a Scottish Presbyterian theologian, buried incidentally in Westminster Abbey. One of his most well-known works is entitled “The Loveliness of Christ”. Although, perhaps, you may not know Rutherford by name, there are, I’m sure, many of his beautifully turned phrases that will be familiar to you. In my reading I’ve been struck repeatedly by how apposite his words are for Lent, Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum, as well as for the days through which we are living. Throughout the Triduum we encounter Jesus teaching us by his example through words and actions; we are called to be his attentive disciples, his eager pupils. On Maundy Thursday we accompany the Lord to the Garden of Gethsemane and witness his suffering. For our own times of suffering, Rutherford offers this thought: “When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord’s choicest wines.” On Good Friday we stand in sorrow-tinged awe at the foot of the Cross, that instrument of torture become the Throne of Grace. In our own lives, we too may be called to embrace, and not turn from, the reality of the Cross: “Christ’s cross is such a burden as sails are to a ship or wings are to a bird.” or again: “Come all crosses, welcome, welcome! So I may get my heart full of my Lord, Jesus Christ.” On Holy Saturday, as we wait, hushed and in stillness, we might better understand this truth: “I know that, as night and shadows are good for flowers, and moonlight and dews are better than a continual sun, so is Christ’s absence of special use, and that it hath some nourishing virtue in it, and giveth sap to humility and putteth an edge on hunger, and furnisheth a fairfield to faith to put forth itself, and to exercise its fingers in gripping it seeth not what.” Sometimes it can feel as if God is absent from our world; then, with eyes of faith, we need to discover his seeming hidden presence. Christ’s three days in the tomb are often described as a dark night; Rutherford reminds us: “Grace grows best in winter.” and we have surely seen that truth evident in the selflessness and generosity of so many around us at this particular time. Then at the Easter Vigil and again on Easter Sunday and throughout the Paschal season, we rejoice and revel in the truth of Christ’s Resurrection, and here we might take as our own what is perhaps Rutherford’s most well-known phrase, certainly one of his most often quoted, as the expression of our hope, as the conviction of our faith, as our resolute belief for the days ahead: “After winter comes the summer. After night comes the dawn. After every storm, there comes the clear, open skies.” I wish you all the peace and joy of Easter, the presence of Christ’s abiding love in your hearts and minds, and the full flourishing of hope and faith in everything we face together today and in the weeks and months ahead. With my love and prayers. Fr Alistair