‘“I know my sheep.” Christ our Lord knows not only the number of the whole flock but the character, condition, circumstances, needs, and necessities of each one. He knows us perfectly and individually. He is deeply interested in us, because He made us, and because He died for us. He knows our capabilities, what we can do for His glory, how He can develop our character, and our capacity for happiness with Him here and in heaven. He knows, too, our limitations, and never expects more of us than, with His grace, we can accomplish. He knows our evil tendencies, and strives by His discipline to correct and eradicate them.
He knows our trials and our sorrows, and is ever close at hand to help us if we will come to Him. He knows our temptations, and will never suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but ever makes for us the way of escape. If He knows our failures and our falls, He knows also every step, every effort, however feeble it may be, which we make in trying to do better.
In Gethsemane, and on the Cross, He thought and prayed for each one of us, and offered the Sacrifice of Himself to save us. The Good Shepherd gave His life for His sheep – for each one, as if each had been the only one who needed to be saved. In His high-priestly work before the throne on high He makes continual intercession for us. As Aaron bore on his breastplate the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, so our great High Priest bears our names upon His heart, and intercedes for us.
It is of this intimate and personal knowledge of every one of us that He spake when He said in an earlier part of this discourse that the Good Shepherd “calleth His own sheep by name.” He not only knows us, but He calls each one of us by name; each by that new name which He gave us at our baptism, and which is a type of that other name which He will one day give, the new name “which no man knoweth, but he that receiveth it”. Thus it is that the Good Shepherd knows His sheep’.
Fr WH Longridge SSJE, 1848-1930
‘In those countries of the East where our Lord appeared, the office of a shepherd is not only a lowly and simple office, and an office of trust, as it is with us, but, moreover, an office of great hardship and of peril. Our flocks are exposed to no enemies, such as our Lord describes. The Shepherd here has no need to prove his fidelity to the sheep by encounters with fierce beasts of prey. The hireling shepherd is not tried. But where our Lord dwelt in the days of His flesh it was otherwise. There it was true that the good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep — “but he that is an hireling, and whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, and the wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep”.
Our Lord found the sheep scattered; or, as He had said shortly before, “All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers”; and in consequence the sheep had no guide. Such were the priests and rulers of the Jews when Christ came; so that “when He saw the multitudes He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd”. Such, in like manner, were the rulers and prophets of Israel in the days of Ahab, when Micaiah, the Lord’s Prophet, “saw all Israel scattered on the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd, and the Lord said, These have no Master, let them return every man to his house in peace”. Such, too, were the shepherds in the time of Ezekiel, of whom the Prophet says, “Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherd feed the flocks?... They were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered”: and in the time of the Prophet Zechariah, who says, “Woe to the idle shepherd that leaveth the flock!”
So was it all over the world when Christ came in His infinite mercy “to gather in one the children of God that were scattered abroad”. And though for a moment, when in the conflict with the enemy the good Shepherd had to lay down His life for the sheep, they were left without a guide (according to the prophecy already quoted, “Smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall he scattered”), yet He soon rose from death to live for ever, according to that other prophecy which said, “He that scattered Israel will gather him, as a shepherd doth his flock”. And as He says Himself in the parable before us, “He calleth His own sheep by name and leadeth them out, and goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice”, so, on His resurrection, while Mary wept, He did call her by her name, and she turned herself and knew Him by the ear whom she had not known by the eye. So, too, He said, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?” And He added, “Follow Me”. And so again He and His Angel told the women, “Behold He goeth before you into Galilee... go tell My brethren, that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me”.
From that time the good Shepherd who took the place of the sheep, and died that they might live for ever, has gone before them: and “they follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth”.
…My brethren, we say daily, “We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture”. Again, we say, “We have erred and strayed from Thy ways, like lost sheep:” let us never forget these truths; let us never forget, on the one hand, that we are sinners; let us never forget, on the other hand, that Christ is our Guide and Guardian. He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. He is a light unto our ways, and a lantern unto our paths. He is our Shepherd, and the sheep know His voice. If we are His sheep, we shall hear it, recognise it, and obey it’.
from Sermon 16 by St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘Easter is rightly called the Queen of Feasts. Like a queen she reigns over every other event in world history. Like a queen she reigns supreme over every other feast in the Christian year. Yet, to understand her greatness, we must see how all that went before is fulfilled in her, and how she is a new beginning for all future time. Easter is the completion of a great mystery: she is the beginning of a mystery as great.
It would be easier for us to remember the true meaning of the feast if its name were derived directly from the Hebrew Pasch, as is the English Passover and the French Pâques. For Easter is the Christian Pasch, or Passover.
… The Passover feast of the Jews commemorated the events which accompanied the “passing over” of their forefathers from the slavery of Egypt to the freedom of Palestine. The “passing over” had started with a meal for which a lamb without blemish had been slain without a bone of its body being broken; its blood had been sprinkled on the door-posts of their houses so that the angel of death might pass over them; and the lamb had been eaten. Then had followed many signs of God's special care for them: the safe crossing of the waters of the Red Sea which had drowned Pharaoh and the Egyptians; the light guiding them by night; the manna feeding them in the desert; until they eventually reached the land of promise.
So God brought forth his Chosen People from slavery to freedom. But the events which accompanied the Exodus from Egypt not only sealed the Israelites as the Chosen People of God; they were also a kind of rehearsal for the way in which God would eventually redeem mankind as a whole, and each individual as an individual. It was as if God allowed the shadow to appear centuries before, so that when the reality came it might be recognised. Christ was the reality of which these events were the shadow. He was the true Lamb, slain without a bone of his body being broken. His blood was shed and sprinkled so that the angel of death might pass over his people dying in sin. As the Israelites had passed through the Red Sea from death to life, so Christ passed through the sepulchre from death to life. As the enemies of the Israelites had been drowned in the waters of the Red Sea, so by his death Christ destroyed the enemies of mankind, sin and death. Christ is the true light, lighting man through the darkness of this world. He is the true manna, giving his body and blood to be the food of man in the wilderness of this life.
So we have a second Passover: the passing over of Jesus Christ from death to life, fulfilling the pattern of the ancient passing over of the Jews from Egypt to Palestine. So was the first Easter Day the completion of a great mystery.
But it was the beginning of a mystery as great. For Christ passed over from death to life so that each human soul might pass over from death in sin to eternal life. The events of the Exodus were not only a rehearsal for Christ's passing over; they were also a rehearsal for each individual soul's passing over. Born in captivity to sin, man passes through the waters, not of the Red Sea, but of Baptism, his soul cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God. Christ is the light and the food of his soul, leading him through the wilderness of this life to the promised land of heaven’.
from Holy Week and Easter: The Services Explained, 1956, by E J Rowland
I was the one who waited in the garden
Doubting the morning and the early light.
I watched the mist lift off its own soft burden,
Permitting not believing my own sight.
If there were sudden noises I dismissed
Them as trick of sound, a sleight of hand.
Not by a natural joy could I be blessed
Or trust a thing I could not understand.
Maybe I was a shadow thrown by one
Who, weeping, came to lift away the stone,
Or was I but the path on which the sun,
Too heavy for itself, was loosed and thrown?
I heard the voices and the recognition
And love like kisses heard behind thin walls.
Were they my tears which fell, a real contrition
Or simply April with its waterfalls?
It was by negatives I learnt my place.
The Garden went on growing and I sensed
A sudden breeze that blew across my face.
Despair returned but now it danced, it danced.
Elizabeth Jennings CBE, 1926-2001
Restrictions continue, but so does the celebration of the Church’s liturgy in this Easter season. Today is St George’s Day, an observance that always falls in Eastertide, and appropriately so since it teaches us that even in the moment of martyrdom, the final victory - for us, as it was for St George - is assured. I am, of course, naturally disappointed that St George does not possess the rank of a feast in Canada, especially given the long association of the saint and his cross with this dominion. John Cabot planted the English flag on Canadian soil in 1497, and that flag remains a constitutive part of Canadian heraldry and her national and provincial flags to this day (red and white are Canada’s colours for this reason) - an emblematic reminder of the English roots of this nation.
Which is a useful segue into my sharing, again, the following poem, so expressive of those English settlers who arrived to make a new life in this nation, but never forgot their heavenly patron, that great ‘Soul of England’.
St George that savest England,
Save us who still must go
Where leads thy cross of scarlet
Upon its field of snow.
Beyond the life of cities,
Distractions and dismays,
Where mountain shadows measure
The passing of the days.
Among the lonely snow-peaks
Where golden morning shines,
Stands thy undaunted outpost
Among the lodge-pole pines–
A little stone-built chapel
As modest as can be,
Touched with a loving glory,
To house thy God and thee.
Here, where majestic beauty
And inspiration bide,
Be thou, to make us worthy,
Our counsellor and guide.
Be with us, Soul of England,
Where the last trail puts forth,
To keep unsoiled forever
The honour of the North.
St George’s in the Pines
Bliss Carman FRSC, 1861-1929
‘This paschal mystery is truly the universal mystery: meeting the needs of all men, belonging to all, uniting all. This is the truth that comes to light in a comparison of the Christian mystery with the pagan ones in which men had sought a gratification of their desires which only the Christian mystery could provide.
… They are as a rough draft, very pale and inadequate, of what God is preparing to give man in answer to his deepest desires and infinitely in excess of his most sanguine hopes. In these mysteries, so often inconsequential, men sought, without realising it, another mystery; just as, in their false gods, they unconsciously adored the true God. One day shadows and symbols disappeared because the reality had come. Then could Christianity satisfy all the aspirations of the human soul and even teach it to desire treasures beyond the power of its own thought or imagination to conceive. Man, already in God’s hands without realising it, suddenly perceived that his own dim imaginings were, by divine intervention, transfigured and endowed with life’.
from The Paschal Mystery: Meditations on the Last Three Days of Holy Week
by Fr Louis Bouyer, Cong. Orat., 1913-2004
‘We have become “God’s own people” through the blood of our Redeemer; for in time gone by the people of Israel was redeemed from Egypt by the blood of the lamb.
…The people who were freed by Moses from slavery in Egypt, after the crossing of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh’s army, sang a hymn of triumph to the Lord; so too, since we have received pardon for our sins in baptism, we should express due thanks for the heavenly grace we have received.
For the Egyptians, who oppressed God’s people, and who stand for darkness and suffering, are an apt symbol for the sins which harass us, but which have been destroyed in baptism.
The liberation of the children of Israel, and the journey by which they were led to the homeland they has long ago been promised, correspond to the mystery of our redemption, through which we make our way to the brightness of our heavenly home, with the grace of Christ as our light and our guide. The light of grace is symbolised by the pillar of cloud and fire which throughout their journey protected them from the darkness of the night, and led them along their secret path to their home in the promised land’.
St Bede the Venerable, 672-735
O take away your dried and painted garlands!
The snow-cloth’s fallen from each quicken’d brow,
The stone’s rolled off the sepulchre of winter,
And risen leaves and flowers are wanted now.
Send out the little ones, that they may gather
With their pure hands the firstlings of the birth,--
Green-golden tufts and delicate half-blown blossoms,
Sweet with the fragrance of the Easter earth;
Great primrose bunches, with soft, damp moss clinging
To their brown fibres, nursed in hazel roots;
And violets from the shady banks and copses,
And wood-anemones, and white hawthorn shoots;
And tender curling fronds of fern, and grasses
And crumpled leaves from brink of babbling rills,
With cottage-garden treasures—pale narcissi
And lilac plumes and yellow daffodils.
Open the doors, and let the Easter sunshine
Flow warmly in and out, in amber waves,
And let the perfume floating round our altar
Meet the new perfume from the outer graves.
And let the Easter “Alleluia!” mingle
With the sweet silver rain-notes of the lark;
Let us all sing together!—Lent is over,
Captivity and winter, death and dark.
Ada Cambridge, 1844-1926
‘“The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes’ (Revelation 7.17). What is the throne, but the throne of God, the place where he reigns in the light which no man can approach unto? And who is the Lamb in the midst of it, but our Lord Jesus Christ, God made Man, first redeeming us on the Cross, then returning with his human nature to his Father’s right hand, and sitting down with him on the throne of his glory? The Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, is here shown to us as our Shepherd, sparing and dealing gently with his people, whom he hath redeemed with his precious blood. He is our Shepherd, to feed and to lead us’.
John Keble, 1792-1866
‘The sun is setting, and our earth will soon be mantled in darkness. The Church has provided a torch, which is to spread its light upon us... It is of an unusual size. It stands alone, and is of a pillar-like form. It is the symbol of Christ. Before being lighted, its scriptural type is the pillar of a cloud, which hid the Israelites when they went out from Egypt; under this form, it is the figure of our Lord, when lying lifeless in the tomb. When lighted, we must see in it both the pillar of fire, which guided the people of God, and the glory of our Jesus risen from his grave. Our holy Mother the Church, would have us enthusiastically love this glorious symbol, and speaks its praises to us in all the magnificence of her inspired eloquence. As early as the beginning of the 5th century, Pope St Zozimus extended to all the Churches of the City of Rome the privilege of blessing the Paschal Candle, although Baptism was administered no where but in the Baptistery of St John Lateran. The object of this grant was, that all the Faithful might share in the holy impressions which so solemn a rite is intended to produce. It was for the same intention that, later, every Church, even though it had no Baptismal Font, was permitted to have the Blessing of the Paschal Candle’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
Scenes of Easter (Vigil and Day) at home in the Oratory. I share an excerpt from my Easter Day note to parishioners.
‘It can be tempting, especially in our moments of loneliness or isolation, to despair at the loss of control and freedom we’re all experiencing. It can be tempting, in the absence of our familiar routines and patterns of the spiritual life, to regard the Lent and Holy Week we’ve been through, and the Easter we’ve now entered, at best as ‘less’ than that to which we’re usually accustomed, and at worst as somehow ‘wasted’. Some of this is understandable, and I am as frustrated and bewildered as you, but we have to hold to the hope that the Resurrection offers to us, both now, and for the future.
If the liturgies of Holy Week celebrated mutedly in isolation have impressed anything upon me, it’s that the whole of the Christian life – our real life – is lived with and through the ever-present reality of the Cross, that contradictory symbol at the heart of our Catholic Faith. Holy Week, with its great narratives of death to life, darkness to light, and of faith, hope, and love lost and then restored by means of that Cross, signify that this Week isn’t some mere preparatory re-enactment of biblical events in the run-up to the Resurrection story. Holy Week isn’t just for Holy Week. It’s for the rest of our lives: the ultimate spiritual, liturgical, psychological, and mystical context for each and every one of us in our journey on the path to Heaven.
In this present time of plague, as with other times in our lives, when darkness seeks to overcome light; when death and suffering seem to have the last word, Holy Week offers us the key to understanding what’s really going on. God enters most fully into all the pain and misery of what it is to be man and he redeems it. He bows low in order to lift us up and draw us more closely, more intimately, unto himself. If we live the whole of our lives as we’ve lived this Holy Week then we’ll have a better sense of what hope is all about. Isolation, separation, darkness, despair, loss, and death have all, ultimately, been defeated. But these, for now, form the context and the content of our life, and perhaps our experiencing them this year in a more personal way has helped us to see that they are but a necessary part of the struggle; a struggle we must undergo – a cross we must all bear – in order to be brought unto the glory of the Resurrection’.
The Queen has recorded a few words of encouragement and hope on this Easter Eve. ‘Easter isn’t cancelled’, says Her Majesty, and she is right to remind us of this as we prepare to enter into this great feast. ‘We need Easter as much as ever. The discovery of the Risen Christ on the first Easter Day gave his followers new hope and fresh purpose, and we can all take heart from this... May the living flame of the Easter hope be a steady guide as we face the future’. Amen to that, and a very blessed Easter!
‘If we compare the indifference shown by the Catholics of the present age for the Rogation Days, with the devotion wherewith our ancestors kept them, we cannot but acknowledge that there is a great falling off in faith and piety. Knowing, as we do, the importance attached to these Processions by the Church, we cannot help wondering how it is that there are so few among the Faithful who assist at them. Our surprise increases when we find persons preferring their own private devotions to these public Prayers of the Church, which to say nothing of the result of good example, merit far greater graces than any exercises of our own fancying.
The whole Western Church soon adopted the Rogation Days. They were introduced into England at an early period; so, likewise, into Spain, and Germany. Rome herself sanctioned them by her own observing them; this she did in the 8th century, during the Pontificate of St Leo the Third. She gave them the name of the Lesser Litanies, in contradistinction to the Procession of the 25th of April, which she calls the Greater Litanies. With regard to the Fast which the Churches of Gaul observed during the Rogation Days, Rome did not adopt that part of the institution. Fasting seemed to her to throw a gloom over the joyous forty days, which our Risen Jesus grants to his Disciples; she therefore enjoined only abstinence from flesh-meat during the Rogation Days. The Church of Milan, which, as we have just seen, so strictly observes the Rogations, keeps them on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension, that is to say, after the forty days devoted to the celebration of the Resurrection.
If, then, we would have a correct idea of the Rogation Days, we must consider them as Rome does, - that is, as a holy institution which, without interrupting our Paschal joy, tempers it. The purple vestments used during the Procession and Mass do not signify that our Jesus has fled from us, but that the time for his departure is approaching. By prescribing Abstinence for these three days, the Church would express how much she will feel the loss of her Spouse, who is so soon to be taken from her’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O Almighty God, who hast created the earth for man, and man for thy glory: mercifully hear the supplications of the people, and be mindful of thy covenant; that both the earth may yield her increase, and the good seed of thy word may bring forth abundantly, to the glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
A Better Resurrection
I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.
My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
‘Contemplate the process of resurrection. In one sense, resurrection is an instantaneous act, as the Incarnation was an instantaneous act, and as is our regeneration. But as our Lord lived on earth many years, so we to have to rise gradually to the glory of our resurrection, as the continuous action of our will stablishes us in union with Christ. It is a process, instantaneous in its origin, but continually carried out by all the acts of the Christian life, till its perfect development at the last great day in the redemption of our bodies. As our nature takes into itself the substance of the resurrection life of Christ, we are incorporated into Christ. Christ must be incorporated into us till there remains no faculty that is not full of Christ.
The resurrection of Christ is no mere pledge of a future resurrection. It is the principle of resurrection now going on within us, and in which we must act, moment by moment. The world would have no power over us if we would but realise that we indeed bear within ourselves him who is himself all that future glory’.
Richard Meux Benson SSJE, 1824-1915
Fr Frederick Faber, Cong. Orat., 1814-1863
The English Catholic Hymn Book no.881
Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive his inestimable benefit; and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Collect was composed in 1549 and is based on the Epistle and Gospel [in the Book of Common Prayer].
In the collect today we still dwell on the accomplished work of Christ - His sacrifice and perfect example. We pray that we may thankfully receive the benefits of His great sacrifice and follow His perfect example. To endeavour ourselves is the old English way of saying bind ourselves; “devoir” is an old Norman word for duty. So then to say I endeavour myself means I make it my duty.
Our Collect today still continues the Easter message; in it we speak of how God has given to us His only Son to be unto us a sacrifice for sin. He made Himself a sacrifice for sin when He offered up Himself on the Cross on Good Friday. Our sins were borne by Him upon the Altar of the Cross, so that He might die for our sins. He rose again that we might have a new birth unto righteousness. One thing, however, we can never forget, and that is His sacrifice for sin, because we continually plead that sacrifice in the Eucharist.
Thy offering still continues new
Before the righteous Father’s view;
Thyself the Lamb for ever slain,
Thy Priesthood doth unchanged remain;
Thy years, O God, can never fail,
Nor Thy blest work within the veil. (Charles Wesley)
The Collect calls this Sacrifice. “His inestimable benefit”, because we can never really estimate the great benefit that the world throughout the ages, and in the ages to come, has and will derive from His great sacrifice. It surpasses understanding’.
from Teaching the Collects, 1965, by H.E. Sheen
‘Now let us celebrate the Mass, directed by Philip and James. During the Fore-Mass they are our guides, readying us for the Sacrifice proper.
…In the Gospel [St John 14:1-13] we see the two apostles [Philip and James] with Christ between them. What a beautiful setting Easter time gives to the farewell sermons of Jesus! He is taking leave of His Church before ascending to heaven. He speaks softly, consolingly. Surely He will return; He leaves simply to prepare a place for us, then He will come to take us with Him so that we too may be where He is. In the midst of earthly troubles we need not be sad; we have a home in heaven. He Himself is readying it.
Jesus set the goal, He also showed the way. Disturbed and saddened, the apostles acted as if they knew neither the goal nor the way. With indulgent kindness Jesus said: I am the Way and, therefore, the Truth and the Life likewise. A lesson of tremendous importance! He is the focal point of our religious life, and consequently the only Way to heaven. Therefore we love to come to Mass where as the Way He gives instruction and commands, where as the Truth He speaks the Gospel message, and where as the Life He gives us His very Body in the blessed Eucharist.
…The sermon is over, our preachers are finished; these many truths are their legacy to us. Now we continue with the Sacrifice of Christ. It is also our sacrifice, we must offer it with Him. Therefore in solemn procession we approach the altar, led by our two apostles. There upon the altar they place the sum and substance of lives lived to the full – their joy, their sorrow, their labour for souls. And like an eagle enticing its young to fly into the light of the sun, so the two apostles invite us to unite our life’s sacrifices to theirs and offer all to the Father in union with Christ’s supreme oblation.
The two apostles have completed their task. Now they reverently withdraw. They take a position before the Lamb that was slain and yet lives, and offer the Mass with us. In Christ we constitute one great body – the faithful, the apostles, the saints – Christ’s mystical Body’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: grant us perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life; that, following the steps of thy holy Apostles Saint Philip and Saint James, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leadeth to eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Seven Stanzas at Easter
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
John Updike, 1932-2009
Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness; that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Low Sunday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘When Easter comes, the Church delights to remind herself of that newness which is in the risen Christ. On Holy Saturday morning, a new spark must be struck from the flint, to light a new set of candles and lamps; new holy water must be blessed, and a new font; fresh cloths are spread on the altars, and the tabernacle itself, on Easter morning, is full of freshly consecrated Hosts. We are beginning all over again, making all things new. And we have a right to do so, for in the order of grace there is perpetual novelty. In the order of nature there is perpetual affectation of novelty, which never comes to anything; there is nothing new, the wise man reminds us, under the sun, however much, at the moment, things look different. Whereas in the order of grace there is no change apparent, but in truth it is a perpetual spring, inexhaustible in its fecundity.
…[I]n the life of grace, ah, if we could only see it, there is a perpetual burgeoning of new life, nor merely from one Easter to another, from one retreat to another, but with every worthy reception of the sacraments. Perpetual spring, perpetual renovation of our natures, if we could only catch the hour of grace, utilise it, make it our own. Whatever you are, and at whatever time of life you are, that possibility of spiritual renewal is with you no less surely than if you were a boy at school again, or just leaving school to make your way in life. Christ is risen; those tidings can never lose their force with age, nor be staled by repetition; Christ is risen, and life, for the Christian, is always new’.
from an Easter meditation, 1939, by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
We thank thee, heavenly Father, for that thou hast delivered as from the dominion of sin and death and hast brought us unto the kingdom of thy Son: and we pray thee that, as by his death he hath recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to joys eternal; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Saturday in the Easter Octave, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Conquering death by death. It is here that we must start in thinking about Christ as Lord. As St John saw in his vision, Jesus holds the keys of hell because he has died and yet is alive. And in the gospels it is the risen Christ who says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me”. The earliest Christians thought of the resurrection as the event in which God invested Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth, with authority, brought him to sit on his right hand in heaven to share his, God’s, kingship. Why? First and foremost, because Jesus raised from the dead “dies no more”, as Paul says. The reason Jesus is set free from all the constraints and limits which keep men and women at a distance from God and from each other - from the principalities and powers of the new Testament. The resurrection is not a resuscitation; it is the gift of the new kind of life, the life that exists on the far side of death and hell, of destruction and disintegration. He will not die again, “death has no more dominion over him”. He is no longer the prisoner of the past; he is not an historical memory, whose life is neatly tied up and put away. No, from now on he belongs to all people and all times, he is available to all. He is free’.
Rowan Williams, Lord Williams of Oystermouth (Archbishop of Canterbury, 2002-2012)
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal Mystery hast established the new covenant reconciliation: grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Thursday in the Easter Octave, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
My tender age in sorrow did beginne
And still with sicknesses and shame.
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Let me combine,
And feel thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
‘Man, nature and history have their solution not within themselves but within a divine kingdom that transcends them. This divine kingdom cannot be realised as a climax of human progress upon the plane of history, nor yet as a movement of mankind to an immortality that belongs to it by right. It will be realised by God’s act in “raising up” mankind and delivering it from the contradictions which neither history nor immortality can solve. Yet this divine kingdom will not be far removed from nature and history; for in it both nature and history will be “clothed upon” and fulfilled.
“Non eripit mortalia,
Qui regna dat caelestia”.
It is thus in the Resurrection of the dead that the goal of the individual and the goal of the redeemed society find their perfect coincidence. The individual cannot reach his goal except in union with those who shall share with Him in the love of God and in the Body of Christ. The traditional picture of a final Resurrection and of spirits waiting (though in a conscious and growing activity) for their bodies at the last day, tells of the truth that the perfecting of the individual is reached only in the perfecting of all. Thus the thought of my resurrection is inseparable from the thought of the resurrection of all the members of Christ’.
from The Resurrection of Christ, 1945
by A.M. Ramsey, 1904-1988 (Archbishop of Canterbury 1961-1974)
O God, who dost gladden us with the yearly solemnity of the Resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord: mercifully grant that we may so observe this temporal feast; that we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Wednesday in the Octave of Easter, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘There is a wonderful economy about the grace of God, and though he never fails us, yet he combines his gift of grace with a complete respect for our own freedom and responsibility.
That means that we must expect to find the proof of the powers of his grace not in easy effortless victories because all our difficulties and temptations melt away, but in strength for the conflict. What is asked of us is not the limp surrender of ourselves to some blind force which will work in us without our knowledge or consent, but the active vigorous response of our whole being to the grace that is given us.
We shan’t drift into living the new life of the man who has been buried and raised again with Christ. God’s grace isn’t given to us to save us trouble or to enable us to do without effort what in fact requires all the effort which our wills can muster; but it does ensure that his power is always available for us, and we can always rely on it.
But remember that if we’re to share his triumph, we must also share the method by which it was achieved. We are committed to the victory of the Cross. And that means not only that we must follow the example of his patience before we can be partakers of his resurrection, but also that God’s power is a power which is only made perfect in weakness and therefore it always involves for us, as it did for the apostles, a real trial of our faith. We can’t separate Easter from all that has gone before. The continuation of Christ’s victory in us means the continuation of Christ’s struggle in us. But never fear. “God giveth us the victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ”. We are actors in the Easter drama, and the crucified risen Lord still continues his Easter triumph in countless human souls. For “we are more than conquerors through him that loved us”’.
from The Easter Drama, 1958, by Hugh Bishop
(Superior of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, 1965-1974)
O God, who by the glorious Resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Tuesday in the Easter Octave, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Break the box and shed the nard;
Stop not now to count the cost;
Hither bring pearl, opal, sard;
Reck not what the poor have lost;
Upon Christ throw all away:
Know ye, this is Easter Day.
Build His church and deck His shrine,
Empty though it be on earth;
Ye have kept your choicest wine--
Let it flow for heavenly mirth;
Pluck the harp and breathe the horn:
Know ye not ’tis Easter morn?
Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.
Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe,
Chaplets for dishevelled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.
Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer, and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls always
Make each morn an Easter Day.
Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, 1844-1889
Fr Lee Kenyon