Wednesday 1 May 2024

Easter goes on

“It is at this time of year,” the remark came, “when one is a bit fed up with Easter Hymns. There are no good ones left and it is too early for May hymns to Our Lady.” Whilst clergy can find the oddest things to complain about, there is both something with which to have sympathy in this view and also something to rebel against. As we head into the last week before the Ascension we can marvel that Easter still goes on, whether we have sung all the good hymns or not. But that is rather the point: Easter does go on and on and it is something about which we do not give enough thought.

At the moment of the incarnation, our Lord took our human nature to himself but also shared his divine nature with us. And as he went through his life experiencing all that it is to be human, he shared with us his divinity. Just as death is an ever present reality in everyone’s lives, every day, so too the resurrection is an ever present reality in the lives of believers. If the human experience is coloured by the presence of death, that colour is changed by the fact that the life of the Risen Christ colours it too.

Caryll Houselander once reflected on this presence. She wrote:

All day long, all over the world there is resurrection. A puny infant is baptized; Christ lives again, strong in his new life. A convert is received into the Church, a little appalled and disappointed by the sense of emptiness in his own soul, after the long tension of his conversion; Christ comes back to the world. A boy murmurs the monotonous story of his sins in the cramped confession box, the words of absolution are spoken; Christ lives again in the heart of mankind. A forgotten old woman dies in the workhouse. To those who close the eyes and cover the quiet face nothing extraordinary has happened; in the eyes of the Eternal Father, Christ has risen again from the dead.  Every day thousands of people receive Holy Communion. Christ who has been sacrificed on the altar is laid in the tomb of their hearts. There is no place he will not come: prisons, hospitals, schools, camps, ships at sea, cathedrals, little tin churches; he comes to them all. He comes into the houses of the sick and the dying, regardless of whether they are mansions or slums.

When we receive the sacraments, we too must be conscious that Christ is ever rising in our hearts. We are joined on to him, and so those moments of grace, of renewal and of devotion are participations in his resurrection. We have to make sure we look for them and keep them. Easter characterises and defines the life of our soul as much as anything else. If we only kept that in mind more we could still be found singing, “Christ the Lord is risen today” with as much freshness and gusto in July as on Easter morning, because the truth is that it is always Easter morning somewhere.

So the Ascension is not the end, because there is no end. We are in Easter now, and we always will be. And we must thank God for that.