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The Bishop's Easter Message 2020

by Michael Ford last modified 09 Apr, 2020 09:59 AM

Wednesday 8 April, 11am.

 
A Different Sort of Holy Week and Easter

To the pilgrim, the busyness and noise of Jerusalem is usually overwhelming. It must have been so in the time of Jesus, especially when people gathered in the city for the Passover festival. Now even Jerusalem is quiet. The Holy Sepulchre, where the body of Jesus is said to have been buried, is closed. In Salisbury also the streets are empty. The churches are closed.

God is everywhere so we can be with God anywhere. It’s good to pray at home and we all need times of solitude but it’s the people who are missing. Religion, like life, is communal. How I missed the Palm Sunday procession, the people, the palms, the singing and the donkey.

How much more so is that going to be on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day. Lighting the new fire just before dawn outside the west front of the cathedral and entering that great building with just the great Easter candle to illuminate the dark is the most wonderful moment of the year. The light is given to each of the hundreds of people holding a candle who every other year have been present to celebrate the resurrection and renew their baptismal vows.

Not this year. With the peak of the pandemic yet to arrive it would be madness for church to continue as usual. We’ve all got to stay home to save lives. Thank God for the NHS and for the variety of key workers who are doing wonderful and work in such challenging times.

We are learning new ways. Churches are streaming services and some are meeting for worship using online conferencing. People are being inventive with signs and symbols. Crosses made at home from paper or tulip leaves last Sunday. Posters, candles, flowers and music will all be part of this week’s muted celebrations.

The Passion of Christ is the same as ever but this week we will notice different things as we mark the Way of the Cross. There’s the same fickleness in human nature in Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and Peter’s denial that he even knew him. The political calculations about sacrificing one to save many might sound very uncomfortable when politicians are making difficult decisions about limited resources for all the patients in the care of the NHS.

This year the bewilderment of the disciples at strange and unexpected events is likely to strike us more than usual. So will the isolation of Jesus on the cross crying, “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me”. That will echo painfully for anyone unable to be with their loved one in their last hours as will only one or two being present at the burial of Jesus or tending the body in the tomb.

Life goes on. God is here. We will celebrate Easter because of the significance of what happened nearly 2,000 years ago. People are resourceful and adaptive. So is the Church. When we are able to gather again to celebrate the resurrection what joy there will be on earth as in heaven!

Amidst it all, I pray this year at home we will have no less a real and a happy celebration of Easter.

+Nicholas Holtam

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