At Home in Lent ~ Easter Day and every day: Dazzling light
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Did you sleep well last night? Did you arise with a sense of excitement that today is Easter Day? Lent is over and we have arrived: Christ is risen! Hallelujah!
The past 46 days are now behind us, as the tide goes out on the season of penitence when we have been reflecting on the Rs of Lent: Realisation; Recognition; Recollection; Regret; Repentance; Resolution; Refreshment; Repair; Restoration; Renewal; Relationship; Re-creation; and arriving now at Resurrection!
At the beginning of Lent, we opened the door and crossed the threshold with ashes and took the call to realise that we are sinners in need of mercy. Then we recognised ourselves in the mirror, found the key to Lent and looked into our safes. We freely donned our hats, packed our bags with clothes from the wardrobe and dressed up as heroes in our Sunday best as we began to recognise our sinfulness. Starting with our shoes, we then regretted the past and remembered that, as the clock ticks away and we synchronise our watches, we are walking into the future. But first we made our ablutions - flushing, flossing and washing - in a daily discipline of prayerful routine, before putting our specs on to correct our spiritual short-sightedness.
Then we were weighed in the balance and, finding ourselves wanting, resolved to try to do better, reminded that we have a sin-cleansing faith that can wash us as clean as the dazzling white garments the angels wore at the resurrection. We recalled that there is always work to do, housework and prayer-work, and reflected on the coldness of death in contrast to the boiling heat of God's love and judgement. Having had our faith shaken a bit by dangerous currents and powers beyond us, we arrived at the refreshment of Mothering Sunday, the midpoint of Lent, and relaxed to enjoy the company of our family and friends.
We pressed on, remembering our loved ones, keeping and throwing away stuff, and took a timely look at our calendars before tuning into the love of Christ, and trying to see the wood for the trees when watching TV. Unable to repair our hard disks, we sought to be wiped clean and restored, and reverted to the more traditional iron pen, with which to write words of faith on our hearts. Then, as Passiontide began, we turned to the Bible, that bestseller, the reading of which renews our relationship with God. We met God the Trinity in the keys of a piano before floundering in the dark, seeking a night light. Opening the curtains, the light of Christ burst in and helped us see how we may be seasoning for the world, knowing that, with Christ as our Lord and guest, every table is his and every chair made for prayer. On Palm Sunday, we contemplated public opinion as Jesus entered Jerusalem, and we thought differently about taxation, bills and money. Drawing closer to the cross, we remembered the humble towel and received a wake-up call to be renewed by the message of hope that dawns as Christ ascends to his cross with a loving embrace. And then, to bed.
Now, on Easter Day, we rise. We rise to find that Lent is over. Whatever we gave up, we can eat, drink, smoke or take up again (must we?). Whatever we have been reading is complete (almost). Whatever we took up, we can lay down (but should we?). Whatever we were like 46 days ago has changed (have we?). The world looks different: events have been and gone, and our surroundings seem to us changed. Even our possessions have taken on new meanings, and we are surrounded by familiar objects that now speak to us, tell us stories and remind us of the renewal we can find on the road to resurrection.
For the Lord is risen indeed! He rises with us each and every day. Just as each night when we go to sleep we die a little death as we turn out the life-light, every morning the light returns and dazzles us with the dawning reality of our own daily resurrection. It is our daily rising that reaffirms our own existence and connects us to the greater light, without which we would be dead. In his talk to the Oxford Socratic Club in 1962, C.S. Lewis said:
Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.
In faith, we see everything by the light of the Easter sunrise. So it is that the light that dazzles us on first acquaintance, the resurrection light that blinded and confused the early disciples and made them fearful, soon made them excited as they realised that this light illuminates everything that they had already seen, and would see in the future. As we rise again, to a normal day that is also the day of resurrection, we may feel it is special because the calendar says it is. But actually, every single day is illuminated by Easter light, and every day is simply just another, normal, regular, recurring day of resurrection. We do not say today, ‘Christ has risen.’ No, we say, ‘Christ is risen.’ For Christ is risen every day, from then on and from now on. It has happened before and it will happen again. Every day is Easter Day, and the day of resurrection is every day.
May the resurrection light of Christ illuminate our past and our future, and shine from everything we see and touch, this Easter and hereafter. For you, Lord, are risen. You are risen indeed! Hallelujah! Amen
The Rev'd Dr Gordon Giles, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield.
Please note this text is copyright © BRF, Oxford, 2018