Thought for the Week 24 April 2011
The Easter Holiday
‘Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and on those in the grave bestowing life’; thus cries the Orthodox proclamation and, as it happens Easter as celebrated by the western church coincides with the observances of the eastern orthodox church this year. It doesn’t often happen. Yet how wonderful it is to rest upon these words as the declaration of our faith: a holy and happy Easter to all.
The holidays have begun. Actually, because of the lateness of Easter they have almost finished so far as the schools are concerned. There have been men in shorts and women in strapless tops pushing, carrying or handling their children up and down the streets of the coastal resorts. Parked cars have become a temporary problem for a couple of weeks. The days pass without stress, though not everyone adjusts easily to not having to check emails or text messages. Sunny days have given us the illusion that summer is here. Families meet up, talk, laugh and eat together.
The sense of gratitude at such short respite is part of the expression of Easter. This year it is added to by the upcoming royal wedding. A three day week becomes, with a little organisation, a full week off.
Thus one way and another our earthly Easter becomes a foretaste of our own resurrection. Its shortness reminds us that while we live in anticipation of the world to come we still live in the ambiguous world. Still bad things happen. Nevertheless, a time of praise is at least as real, potentially more so than the competitive world we inhabit the rest of the time. Some, particularly those who live for work, will argue with this. Holidays for them may be more stressful than being busy. Work, absorbing, conferring status, gives meaning to life. Others, very different, wish the sunlit, lazy days would last forever.
We are different, we humans, from each other. No doubt about that; but we all surely crave meaning. And meaning is conveyed by relationships. One of the most expressive stories of the Easter experience is of Jesus calling Mary Magdalene by name. That he knows us, knows who we are, seeks us out and wants us to know him is emblematic of the Easter story. Good relationships in which others notice us and are glad to have us around exist not only on holiday; indeed they can be found as much in an office or canteen as among the sharp elbows and tongues of casual holiday shoppers, competing for space and a bite to eat. If we can carry with us the spirit of Easter into next week we need not regret unduly the shortness of the holiday. We have, according to the calendar seven weeks of the season. Or we may think that we have it forever if Christ is risen in our hearts.