See the dust on the path lamely dragging:
No, let her be, Mary moves towards her peace,
Deep calls unto deep, a grave for a grave,
A carcass drawing towards a carcass in that unhappy morning;
Three days was this one in a grave, in a world that died
In the cry in the afternoon. It is finished,
The cry that drew blood from her like the barb of a sword.
See her, Christ’s Niobe, drawing with her towards the hill
The rock of her pain from the leaden Easter
Through the dark dawn, through the cold dew, through the heavy dust,
To the place where there is a stone that is heavier than her torn heart;
Uneasily the awkward feet find their way over thorns
With the annoyance of tears doubling the mist before her,
And her hands reaching out to him in barren grief.
Her moan is as monotonous as a dove’s,
Like Orpheus mourning Eurydice
She stands amongst the roses and cries without mourning
‘They have taken away my Lord, taken him away’,
To disciple and angel the same cry
‘And I know not where they have laid him’.
And to the gardener the same frenzy.
Made wild. Broken. She sank within herself in her grief.
The understanding reels and reason’s out of joint, until
He comes and snatches her out of the body to crown her -
Quickly like an Alpine eagle falling on its prey -
With the love that moves the stars, the power that is a Word
To raise up and make alive: ‘and he said unto her, Mary,
She turned herself and said unto him, Rabboni’.
Saunders Lewis, 1893-1985
‘Jesus has decisively “made space” for God in the world of men, so that from now on God is found in the world definitively in the history of Jesus. This is what God's mercy is: an unconditional gift of incalculable cost. It can only be embodied in history in human shape, in the shape of a life and a death seen and accepted as something entirely defined as God's gift to men; a life which is a total offering both to God and to men, so total that human limitation becomes irrelevant. A human life is not just a matter of history, it is the abiding sign of God's presence in the world. The empty grave, that strange and ambivalent sign, stands as our reminder that the life of Jesus is not “over”, not limited and defined and tidied up. He is “with us”. In every extremity, every horror and pain, Jesus is accessible as the one who continued to make God’s loving presence wholly present in the depth of his own anguish and abandonment. There is place for God now in all suffering, at the heart of suffering and even of death, because we have seen the glory of God abiding in the squalor and humiliation of Jesus’ execution. Jesus has “authority” in that he had the right to be there and to be called on in suffering and death. He holds the keys of hell, because he has dwelt there and still lives.
Death and the hells of dereliction and abandonment eat up men and women, exhaust them, scrape them out and bring them to nothing. Jesus is already empty, already poor, already nothing, for God is everything in him; and so the inexhaustible life of God meets death and eats it up and exhausts it. “Death and life have contended” says the Easter hymn. And Jesus by death, the death of obedience, of self-emptying, of gift and grace and mercy, has trampled death underfoot, and shown us the way to life by union with the pattern of his death - his mercy, his self-emptying, his self-offering. By this we can, with him, pass from death to life and die for the life of all the world. By service and gift of our whole being to God and to his suffering world, we may stand with Jesus and live the life of God and share the lordly freedom of God’.
‘Easter is concerned with something unimaginable. Initially, the event of Easter comes to us solely through the word, not through the senses. So it is all the more important for us to be won over by the immensity of this word. Because, however, we can think only by employing sense images, the faith of the Church has always translated the Easter message into symbols that point to things the word cannot express. The symbol of light (including the fire) plays a special part; the praise of the Paschal candle - a symbol of life in the midst of the darkened church - is actually praise of him who proved victor over death. Thus the event of long ago is translated into our present time: where light conquers darkness, something of the Resurrection takes place. The blessing of water focuses on another element of creation, used as a symbol of the Resurrection: water can be a threat, a weapon of death. But living spring water means fruitfulness, building oases of life in the middle of the desert. Then there is a third symbol of a very different kind: the sung Alleluia, the solemn singing of the Paschal liturgy, shows that the human voice, as well as crying, groaning, lamenting, speaking, can also sing. Moreover, the fact that man is able to summon the voices of creation and transform them into harmony - does this not give us a marvellous intimation of the transformation that we, too, with creation, can undergo?’
Pope Benedict XVI
‘Today the Crucified tells us: “I am he that liveth and was dead and behold I am alive for ever more. And I hold the keys of death and of hell”. By the free will of his great love, he laid down his life for us, and now he takes it again for ever. It is not indeed as though that life is just a cancelling or reversing of the death. He lives because he died. He lives, not in spite of death but because of it; for the death is love’s extremest measure. For ever he bears the scars of wounds wherewith he was wounded in the house of his friends. Our great High Priest is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. As he was God from everlasting, so he is Man for evermore. But by his death he hath destroyed the power of death and drawn its sting; and by his rising again has restored us to everlasting life.
Life, not death, is now written as the end of human history. But is that all? Must we wait till the end to know that our salvation is made sure? Is he alone in his great deliverance and victory? Is he as one who has escaped by night from a besieged city and got away in safety, leaving his companions unhelped by his escape, most closely beset, maybe, since he has broken through and left them? Are all the gains here on earth as transitory and insecure as ever? Must we wait until we leave this world before we know anything of the power of his endless life?
No so. Because Christ is risen, sin and death can make no final claim to rule this world. Men may yield themselves to the great false gods of pride and greed and hate. They may seek to enthrone themselves above God and to despise his love and justice and mercy and trample the common life of his children beneath the tyranny of self-idolising power; but in very truth the kingdoms that they thus construct are transient and unsubstantial. They are under doom, for the God who rules the earth is the Father who raised up Jesus Christ from the dead - Jesus in whom love has gained the victory over all the powers of death and hell. There is a life here which cannot be touched by death and decay and in each of us there is that which escapes the doom of transiency and sin’s triumph. For consider the Church. Christ has pledged that it shall not fail or die. It is the Body of the risen Christ. Whether men attack it from without or betray it from within, the Church, in its inner life, its essential being, is the endless Life of Christ, perpetuated upon earth. It cannot die, whatever else passes and disappears; for it lives, not by the contrivance or the pathetic aspirations of men, but by the power of him who raised up Jesus Christ from the dead. For within, from the hidden treasury of our glorious Lord, there are dispensed the grace and truth which by his death and resurrection he has unlocked to be not only the reward of high heaven, but the power to enlighten, strengthen, cleanse, renew, and feed our poor human nature while still we are pilgrims to the City of God’.
from The Easter Message, broadcast on Easter Day, 1939, by Edward Keble Talbot CR, 1877-1949
(Superior of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, 1922-1940)
Most glorious Lord of Lyfe! that, on this day,
Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin;
And, having harrowd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin;
And grant that we, for whom thou diddest dye,
Being with Thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
May live for ever in felicity!
And that Thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love Thee for the same againe;
And for Thy sake, that all lyke deare didst buy,
With love may one another entertayne!
So let us love, deare Love, lyke as we ought,
— Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.
Edmund Spenser, 1552-1599
‘I want to raise the question whether... it really matters whether Jesus literally rose from the dead or not? What difference can it make to me or anyone else if the story of the resurrection is just a haunting story of something that never in fact occurred, expressing a nostalgic and tragic sense of the inevitable frustration of the noblest human ideals and aspirations. Or even if it witnesses to the survival and triumph of Jesus in a purely spiritual form, while his body was left to decay in the grave as rubbish of no further importance? The answer is that it matters enormously, for the following reasons.
First, that the incarnation - God becoming man - is not just an idea, a pleasant way for us to think about things, but was an actual intervention by God into the process of the universe, and this had its climax in the resurrection.
Secondly, in the incarnation God assumed human nature in its wholeness, body no less than soul, in order to restore it and regenerate it in its wholeness. Therefore Jesus’ body, no less than his soul, was brought back to life, and not discarded, in his resurrection.
But, thirdly, in his resurrection Jesus’ body is not just reanimated as a kind of zombie but is transformed and glorified, raised to a new level of being... it was the same body which was crucified and laid in the grave, but it was in a totally new condition which overcame the normal limitations of material objects. This casts a great deal of light upon the essential nature and the ultimate destiny of the physical universe; it has long been an accepted principle of Catholic theology that grace does not destroy nature but perfects it; we can expand this in the form that grace neither destroys nor rejects nor ignores nature, but welcomes, needs, perfects and transforms it... [and] we can see the transformation and glorification of the human nature of Jesus in his resurrection as the supreme honour and privilege conferred by God on human nature as such and on the human race.
For the human body of Jesus is the place at which the eternal Son of God has, so to speak, keyed himself into the human race and so into the material universe. The resurrection and transformation of the human nature of Jesus in its totality, which the accounts of the Gospel describe, are the initiation of the transformation of the whole created world in him, the setting loose of the re-creative energy which was encapsulated in the human race when the Word became flesh in the womb of Mary’.
Eric Mascall OGS, 1905-1993
V. Let us bless the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;
R. Let us praise and exalt him for ever.
BLESSING and honour and glory and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne
and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty;
Just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints;
All glorious thy gifts, thou Spirit of life.
Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might
be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
O GIVE thanks unto the Lord, for he is gracious; And his mercy endureth for ever.
Who hath loved us from all eternity; For his mercy endureth for ever.
And remembered us when we were in trouble; For his mercy endureth for ever.
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven; For his mercy endureth for ever.
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; For his mercy endureth for ever.
Who by his cross and passion hath redeemed the world; For his mercy endureth for ever.
And hath washed us from our sins in his own blood; For his mercy endureth for ever.
Who on the third day rose from the dead; For his mercy endureth for ever.
And hath given us the victory; For his mercy endureth for ever.
Who ascended up on high; For his mercy endureth for ever.
And opened wide for us the everlasting doors; For his mercy endureth for ever.
Who sitteth on the right hand of God; For his mercy endureth for ever.
And ever liveth to make intercession for us; For his mercy endureth for ever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
For the gift of his Spirit; Blessed be Christ.
For the Catholic Church; Blessed be Christ.
For the means of grace; Blessed be Christ.
For the hope of glory; Blessed be Christ.
For the triumphs of his gospel; Blessed be Christ.
For the lives of his saints; Blessed be Christ.
In joy and in sorrow; Blessed be Christ.
In life and in death; Blessed be Christ.
Now and unto the end of the ages; Blessed be Christ.
(Here may be added thanksgivings for particular mercies,
and at their end all shall say together the General Thanksgiving)
BLESSING and honour and thanksgiving and praise more than we can utter,
more than we can conceive, be unto thee, O most adorable Trinity,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by all angels, all men, all creatures, for ever and ever.
Amen and Amen.
from Cambridge Offices and Orisons, 1949
arranged by Eric Milner-White and BTD Smith
Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd—
The little dogs under their feet.
Such plainness of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with a sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.
They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends would see:
A sculptor’s sweet commissioned grace
Thrown off in helping to prolong
The Latin names around the base.
They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
The air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they
Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the glass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,
Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:
Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.
Philip Larkin CH CBE, 1922-1985
‘To see the resurrection as no more than a spiritual experience is to abandon the biblical understanding and to pronounce a decree absolute between spirit and matter. Such an attitude conflicts both with the biblical teaching and, being based on an outdated positivism, with the modern scientific understanding of man as a psychosomatic unity.
St Paul says, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain”. The resurrection is at the heart of the apostolic preaching, and our faith in the gospel which it proclaims calls us not to examine it in the light of the idea of this or any subsequent century but to allow it to judge us that we may see creation and ourselves in the light of God’s revelation.
In a sense, we experience two lives between our baptism and our death, two lives, the one in Christ, the other in Adam. We experience both bodily in terms of our existence as human beings, not one spiritual or mental and the other physical. The one is given by physical birth - that in Adam. The other is given by sacramental birth - that in Christ. The one fulfils and transcends the other. In our physical death we experience the natural end of our life in Adam, but our sacramental life in Christ continues. Our physical body is returned to the created universe from which it came and of which it has always been part. But it returns to a created universe which has been redeemed in Christ in his resurrection, of which by virtue of our sacramental life we shall partake.
The challenge of the resurrection is not new. Men and women have, throughout the ages, found it difficult and too demanding to live truly as human beings, and have been tempted to lapse into either an angelism which sees the spiritual as an escape from the material or into a materialism which in the long run has no better message than “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die”. The resurrection of Christ calls us to accept the challenge so to live that we may be fulfilled in the whole of our human nature in and for God’.
Mgr Graham Leonard, 1921-2010
Done is a battell on the dragon blak,
Our campioun Chryst confountet hes his force;
The yettis of hell ar brokin with a crak,
The signe triumphall rasit is of the croce,
The divillis trymmillis with hiddous voce,
The saulis ar borrowit and to the blis can go,
Chryst with his blud our ransonis dois indoce:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.
Dungin is the deidly dragon Lucifer,
The crewall serpent with the mortall stang;
The auld kene tegir with his teith on char,
Quhilk in a wait hes lyne for us so lang,
Thinking to grip us in his clows strang;
The mercifull Lord wald nochrt that it wer so,
He maid him for to felye of that fang:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.
He for our saik that sufferit to be slane,
And lyk a lamb in sacrifice wes dicht,
Is lyk a lyone rissin up againe,
And as gyane raxit him on hicht;
Sprungin is Aurora radius and bricht,
On loft is gone the glorius Appollo,
The blisfull day depairtit fro the nicht:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.
The grit victour agane is rissin on hicht,
That for our querrell to the deth wes woundit;
The sone that wox all paill now schynis bricht,
And dirknes clerit, our fayth is now refoundit;
The knell of mercy fra the hevin is soundit,
The Christin ar deliverit of thair wo,
The Jowis and thair errour ar confoundit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.
The fo is chasit, the battell is done ceis,
The presone brokin, the jevllouris fleir and flemit;
The weir is gon, confermit is the peis,
The fetteris lowsit and the dungeoun temit,
The ransoun maid, the presoneris redemit;
The feild is win, ourcumin is the fo,
Dispulit of the tresur that he yemit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.
William Dunbar, ca.1465-1520
campioun | champion yettis | gates trymillis | tremble borrowit | ransomed
indoce | endorse Dungin | struck down on char | ajar felye of that fang | come short of that booty
dicht | made ready raxit him | raised himself On loft | aloft done ceis | made to cease
jevellouris fleit and flemit | gaolers affrighted and put to fright temit | emptied yemit | kept
Say, earth, why hast thou got thee new attire,
And stick'st thy habit full of daisies red?
Seems that thou dost to some high thought aspire,
And some new-found-out bridegroom mean'st to wed:
Tell me, ye trees, so fresh apparellèd, -
So never let the spiteful canker waste you,
So never let the heavens with lightning blast you, -
Why go you now so trimly dressed, or whither haste you?
Answer me, Jordan, why thy crooked tide
So often wanders from his nearest way,
As though some other way thy stream would slide,
And fain salute the place where something lay.
And you, sweet birds that, shaded from the ray,
Sit carolling and piping grief away,
The while the lambs to hear you, dance and play,
Tell me, sweet birds, what is it you so fain would say?
And thou, fair spouse of earth, that every year
Gett'st such a numerous issue of thy bride,
How chance thou hottest shin'st, and draw'st more near?
Sure thou somewhere some worthy sigh hast spied,
That in one place for joy thou canst not bide:
And you, dead swallows, that so lively now
Through the flit air your wingèd passage row,
How could new life into your frozen ashes flow?
Ye primroses and purple violets,
Tell me, why blaze ye from your leavy bed,
And woo men's hands to rend you from your sets,
As though you would somewhere be carrièd,
With fresh perfumes, and velvets garnishèd?
But ah! I need not ask, 'tis surely so,
You all would to your Saviour's triumphs go,
There would ye all await, and humble homage do.
Easter Morn by Giles Fletcher, c.1588-1623
‘Every year... there is a happy coincidence between nature and grace. The resurrection of the year silently makes itself felt just when our minds are full of Resurrection; new life springs from the dead stock of an earlier growth, and when St Augustine salutes the newly baptised as the “fresh buds” of Christendom, you picture him as looking out of the window and pointing to the trees. And then the scruple assails us: Can it really be a coincidence, this harnessing of April and May to the symbolism of Easter-tide? Or did the whole Christian tradition spring out of some nature-myth, and was the story of the Resurrection, like the story of Adonis, only the reflection of a human mood, transposed into a divine setting?
A doubt which might be plausible, if it were to be imagined that the Resurrection took place in England. But the synchronisation is all wrong; in Palestine the fig-trees were so fully in leaf by Holy Week that you might affect to look for fruit on them; in Palestine they celebrated their harvest-home at Pentecost, just when we are beginning to despair of the hay. No, whatever theories the anthropologists may propose to us, they cannot rob us of this comforting illusion about spring-tide and Easter-tide; it was, after all, a coincidence. Or perhaps a special providence, designed for the benefit of unimaginative Northerners like ourselves.
No, in the spiritual as in the natural world there is recurrence, there is revival. The fields which looked as if they must for ever remain dingy and browned-off, the trees that seemed to be all dead wood, were the fitting symbols of our unjustified despair. When we renewed our baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil, it was not mere make-believe, we were catching at a fresh opportunity of grace, just when nature itself echoed the conviction we were trying to capture, “Behold, I make all things new”. For the elderly, for the disillusioned, there is something auspicious about the slow coming of spring, and its sudden recovery’.
from Lightning Meditations, 1959, by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
‘We are tempted to believe that, although the Resurrection may be the climax of the Gospel, there is yet a Gospel that stands upon its own feet and may be understood and appreciated before we pass on to the Resurrection. The first disciples did not find it so. For them the Gospel without the Resurrection was not merely a Gospel without its final chapter: it was not a Gospel at all. Jesus Christ had, it is true, taught and done great things: but He did not allow the disciples to rest in these things. He led them on to paradox, perplexity and darkness; and there He left them. There too they would have remained, had He not been raised from death. But His Resurrection threw its own light backwards upon the death and ministry that went before; it illuminated the paradoxes and disclosed the unity of His words and deeds. As Scott Holland said: “In the Resurrection it was not only the Lord who was raised up from the dead. His life on earth rose with him; it was lifted up into its real light”.
It is a desperate procedure to try and build a Christian Gospel upon the words of Jesus in Galilee apart from the climax of Calvary, Easter and Pentecost. If we do so we are professing to know Jesus better than the first disciples knew Him... Every oral tradition about Jesus was handed down, every written record of Him was made only by those who already acknowledged Him as Lord, risen from the dead.
It is therefore both historically and theologically necessary to “begin with the Resurrection”. For from it, in direct order of historical fact, there came Christian preaching, Christian worship, Christian belief.
The Gospel of God appears in Galilee: but in the end it is clear that Calvary and the Resurrection are its centre. For Jesus Christ came not only to preach a Gospel but to be a Gospel, and He is the Gospel of God in all that He did for the deliverance of mankind’.
from The Resurrection of Christ, 1945
by AM Ramsey, 1904-1988 (Archbishop of Canterbury 1961-1974)
On this Easter Monday, a poem of the same name by Christina Rossetti, which speaks appropriately both of today's weather and of the joys of the ‘growing green’ in our small portion of God’s Acre here in South Manchester. May you continue to have a very blessed Eastertide!
Out in the rain a world is growing green,
On half the trees quick buds are seen
Where glued-up buds have been.
Out in the rain God's Acre stretches green,
Its harvest quick tho’ still unseen:
For there the Life hath been.
If Christ hath died His brethren well may die,
Sing in the gate of death, lay by
This life without a sigh:
For Christ hath died and good it is to die;
To sleep when so He lays us by,
Then wake without a sigh.
Yea, Christ hath died, yea, Christ is risen again:
Wherefore both life and death grow plain
To us who wax and wane;
For Christ Who rose shall die no more again:
Amen: till He makes all things plain
Let us wax on and wane.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant hope has begotten us again into a lively hope by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3, 4)
‘The great festival of Easter, the queen of festivals, really speaks for itself. After the gloom of Gethsemane and the darkness of Calvary we burst forth into the light of Easter with a shout of triumph. These words from St Peter express our feelings and our joy, joy for realisation that the cross is not the end. Christ is risen! Think what that meant to His Blessed Mother, to St John and the other disciples. To St Peter it was a chance to ask forgiveness for his denial - no wonder he can write such words of blessing and praise for the Resurrection, “begotten us again to a lively hope”. There is the secret of the Resurrection. It is the source of the great Christian virtue of hope, which has turned the world and its value inside out, by which a Christian faces the terrific problem of life and death. Take away the Resurrection and we are plunged into the darkness of despair. We can only bear to meditate upon the Cross because we know it is not the end.
Let this Easter fill you anew with joyous hope - hope in God who is alone capable of satisfying the human heart. It is only through lack of hope that we misjudge the ways of God, forgetting that this life is but the smallest portion of life. Real belief in the Resurrection and hope in the Risen Christ give us patient trust and a wider vision; we see that this world is not our true home, and its affairs of only passing importance. Our real home is heaven; the great part of the Church is in heaven and our friends, the saints. Our life in the Church is our foretaste of heaven. We have already entered into our inheritance. Here lies true contentment, heavenly joy and the peace that passes understanding. Here in the Mass the gates of heaven are thrown open and we enter heaven. All this springs from the Resurrection - yes, “Blessed be God”’.
Raymond Raynes CR, 1903-1958
Fr Lee Kenyon
A Treasure to be Shared
The Acolyte’s Toolbox