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27 Sunday 2016
posted by Canon Dakin on 05-04-2016

Easter Sunday

VIGIL

IN EARLY DAYS it was during this vigil that those who had been catechumens for two years were baptised, confirmed and made their first Holy Communion. The ceremony went on till dawn. Gradually as Christianity became established and fewer presented themselves for baptism, the vigil continued as a watch-night, greeting the resurrection and alert for Our Lord’s Second Coming. The vigil was never to end before midnight. You would think they would be glad then to go home for a good sleep. They were made of sterner stuff.  They were back in church before dawn for morning prayer and morning prayer began with a kiss of peace. They were celebrating the gift of new life - resurrection life, that lifting up to a new level on which, through their union with the Risen Christ they would be able to carry out his command: “Love one another as I have loved you”. So tonight we thank God for a quality of life made possible only though the death and resurrection of Jesus whose life we share. We turn now to our annual dedication to live by his standards in the renewal of our baptismal promises.

 

DAY

Happy Easter.  In Latin - Gaudia paschalia - Easter Joy.  What is the joy of Easter? I followed Mary Berry’s Easter journey. Her quest was to discover how various Christians celebrated the feast in terms of food which was special for the feast. She visited the Orthodox; Catholics were represented by Italians and Poles. On her journey she had an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury. What was the great joy of Easter for him? It was taking tea with his family. Perhaps he was pressured by the fact that it was a food programme but I had hoped that he might have highlighted a particular aspect of the Easter celebration which had given him a tingle of joy and hope. I remember as a small altar boy in the cathedral being thrilled by the singing of the Exultet, sung in praise of the paschal candle. We English are really not very good at expressing joy. We suspect enthusiasm. An outburst of joy is often the relief of tension - ‘ten to get and the last man in’, sort of thing. Human life is not without tension. There are always worries about work, about health; on a broader scale about crime and violence, immigration, climate change. The world, on the whole, is a rather dark place. As the Easter candle was brought into the darkened church last night we proclaimed: “May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds’. The resurrection of Jesus opened heaven for us.  This changes our whole perspective. We are assured of sharing the happiness of God himself and forever. We are sharing that life even here on earth. George Mackay Brown was a Catholic and a poet who lived in his native Orkney. As a student in Edinburgh he had fallen in love with a girl called Stella Cartright. Nothing came of it. She was an alcoholic. In 1966 she wrote to him from hospital to say that her life was a failure, not just for herself but for all who had ever known her. He wrote back: ...I’m speaking as one who has benefited often from your kindness and love and sweet nature - you have given much happiness to people who were hungry for it. This is the greatest gift of all, charity, deep disinterested love of one’s fellow men; a far higher gift, believe me, than the gifts of art or music or poetry marvellous though they are. Treasure your gift, dear Stella, for this would be a darker and sadder world without you.’  He is right. Disinterested love is a gift because it is already a sharing in the life of God, made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. So this again is a cause of our joy today.  We find it difficult to express our joy. I watch Songs of Praise on Sundays.  The new magazine format gives generous space to gospel choirs. They are constantly expressing their enthusiasm through swaying hips and waving hands. I’m not in tune. There is one short, simple way in which we can express explosive joy. The Amen which closes the Eucharistic Prayer is your most important response. It is your stamp on all that has been said and done in your name. An ancient writer said that it should be like a thunder-clap. So often it is a whimper - and I won’t tell you what I say to myself when I hear it. So today, of all days. let it rip, let it really express the depth of your thanksgiving for all that God through Christ has done for us.

 

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