Go back to normal view
By the time you are reading this, we will be almost at the end of Lent, ready for Holy Week and, finally, our celebration of Easter. Christmas and Easter are, of course, the two major festivals of the Christian tradition, but while Christmas only began to be celebrated from the end of the third century, Easter has been observed since the very earliest times.
It is a dramatic story. God, who came to live amongst us as a human being, and who lived a perfect life of compassion and challenge, was found inconvenient by those in power, betrayed, unjustly convicted and sentenced to a cruel execution. But death could not hold him, and he rose to new life, to the obvious amazement, and transformation, of those who were closest to him. His resurrection life offers us, even today, new life and hope for the future, both in this world and in the world to come. I am constantly amazed by those who find the Christian story boring. To quote Dorothy Sayers, “This is the dogma we find so dull – the terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero. If this is dull, then what, in heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting?” I agree.
For me the most complete, and dramatic, opportunity to enter into this story comes at the Easter Vigil and the first Eucharist of Easter, which, at St Paul’s begins at 8pm on Holy Saturday. The service starts in quiet and almost complete darkness as we hear a series of readings telling the story of God’s work in the world, beginning with creation through to the death and resurrection of Jesus. We then move to the porch of the church where a fire is lit (in a brazier!), followed by the Easter candle which is then processed through the church, spreading light as it goes until the whole church is full of light. The Exsultet, an ancient hymn of triumph and rejoicing, is sung, we renew our baptismal vows and move into the celebration of the Eucharist. In a movement from darkness to light, from sombre mood to rejoicing, we are invited not only to remember, but also to participate in Christ’s death and resurrection.
To repeat Dorothy Sayers: “If this is dull, then what, in heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting?” If you have never attended this service before – come and give it a try!
With every blessing,