Easter is late this year. Busy clergy might think it’s always a bit too close for comfort, but if we have taken seriously the call to use Lent constructively – for disciplined reflection, self-examination and spiritual renewal – we might be longing to embrace that sense of joy that Easter speaks of. And if we have dug a bit a deeper than usual, and if we have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the story of the passion during Holy Week, then the transformation of mood and tone will be all the greater.
In a sense, this patterning of time and seeking to work with a bigger narrative is something that is part of the counter-cultural character of the Christian Church. In our 24/7 culture, where you can get anything you want, at any time of day – where nothing stands still and where the rhythms of night and day and winter and summer are inconveniences to be overcome or avoided – we seek through our calendars and seasons to honour the deeper patterns that have shaped us physically, emotionally and spiritually.
In the wonderful (if slightly world-weary) book Ecclesiastes, the writer (the Teacher) states in the famous third chapter:
For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted… a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…
Times and Seasons. We might resist seeing Lent as a time to fast or for restraint – we might rightly affirm that the joy of Christ is something that transcends any artificial patterns we try to put in place – but in fact these patterns are about connecting us into the real joys and sorrows of our wounded world and of our own inner-life (whether or not we are personally in that place or not). There might be all sorts of reasons why we are actually rejoicing in the midst of Lent or feeling sad at Easter (I’ve actually always been rather miffed that my birthday often falls in Holy Week or at a time when it’s not very convenient to celebrate it!) but this is about surrendering ourselves into the tide of God’s love, and honouring the One to whom ‘all time belongs’. This is the one who, at the Easter Liturgy as we bless the Paschal Candle (perhaps in the darkness of Easter Eve or the half-light of Easter morning), we shall acknowledge as:
Christ yesterday and today,
the Beginning and the End,
Alpha and Omega:
All time belongs to Him
And all ages;
To Him be glory and power,
Through every age and forever. Amen.
Dean of Peterborough