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The blackbird has begun to sing - may that be a precursor of greater warmth outside - although the natural world perhaps does not take so much notice as we do of climatic change. In any case it is British Summer Time this weekend, so I thought to be in advance with this letter of the ending of March going out as a lamb(?) might presage better things for us all. © Aelred Arnesen
In about three weeks time it will be Easter, and while I hope everyone will have been celebrating a daily Easter since my last letter, there will be undoubtedly many great celebrations for the annual Easter festival. We have inherited a lot of liturgical functions for the days before Easter which it is worth pointing out came from the church in Jerusalem in the late fourth century. It was there in Jerusalem that the Easter celebration started to get split up into the Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Day services. Previously it had been one marathon celebration on Easter Day - looking forward to the manifestation of Christ in glory. When it appeared that 'time' was not coming to an end, the possibility of separated, longer and larger celebrations of the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus gained ground among the liturgical enthusiasts of the time. And that is what we have today.
But there is an even greater consideration about 'resurrection' which rarely, if ever, gets an airing in the liturgical cycle within the church. And that is, because the resurrection of Jesus was the great act of the Father in the new creation, we cannot think of the new life in the risen Lord as belonging only to the past - in Jerusalem - nor only think of it as something that will happen in the future for us all. Resurrection, in this larger sense of the new creation by the Father in Christ, must be happening now - in every nano-second.
So the resurrection is not simply a religious or spiritual notion, but the central core of life in the world and cosmos. That is a stupendous thought but it also gives hope to us in our modern world, that love and reason, undergirded by the risen Lord, will work towards the upbuilding of people. He meets people where they are. He comes, as with the disciples in the New Testament, at first a figure unknown. He is beyond our imaginings but not beyond our longing. He can always be encountered in the company of his 21st century disciples, as in our daily tryst and our workaday lives. According to Matthew, the two women met the risen Jesus - 'And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Hail!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him.' It is right that there should be astonishment and worship, for the divine has come and recreated our humanity and is with us in the remaking of our world.
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© Aelred Arnesen