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A friend sent greetings for Easter, saying,I know its Easter all the time, but I still find it helpful to have a time
to celebrate it! We are in total agreement and send you our best wishes and greetings for a joyful Easter Festival.
As part of our greetings to you I thought that it might be useful to explain, starting from the understanding of
the New Testament, how we view the celebration of Easter.
Paul's letters and the four gospels take as their foundation belief that in Jesus' life, death and vindication there has been a new creation, expressed in the resurrection of Jesus on the third day Consequently the risen Jesus is the contemporary, present Lord of every succeeding generation, and of the universe. The early and the first century disciples, in their writing and witness, see the obedience of Jesus as the plan of the Father to renew human life in love. That obedience was well expressed by John,
... unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit.
That is the kernel of the New Testament conviction. It was not sins, so much, that is the meaning of Jesus' death, but the new creation made in Christ. The gospels have no record of the later doctrine of atonement and although Paul states that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, yet he maintains that his apostleship is to the gospel of God ''concerning his Son ... and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.'
So the statement in Mark that Jesus 'has risen, he is not here' must always be true for us, and it is from the gospel perspective that we can say that it is Easter all the time. So, gradually, at the monastery at Ewell, we came to see that worship at this time of the year was, yes, very poignant as we re-read the accounts of the passion of Jesus. But also every day had to witness to the present, risen Lord. There could be no room for an understanding that somehow we had to wait until Easter Sunday to greet the Lord! As his disciples we were not called to replicate in worship the once for all events of the passion of Jesus from Palm Sunday to Easter Day.
Our solution to this challenge was to meet every day in Holy Week to celebrate the eucharist - the meeting place par excellence of participation in Christ. We read the gospel accounts of the events leading up to the passion and death but the crucifixion narrative was read on Easter Day followed by the resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene. In this way we were enabled to give thanks for his death as the eschatological (or world shaking) event - the bridge to the age of the new covenant in which we now share. This view of Christian worship as reflecting the actual, eternal meaning of the gospel rather than seeing it always as a re-enacting of the once for all events of history, helped us in our prayer and study and eventually to take the course we have followed in our present fruitful life in the gospel in London and Cambridge.
Radical? So is the gospel!
Greetings from us both for a very joyful Easter celebration and for Easter joy throughout the year!
© Aelred Arnesen
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© Aelred Arnesen