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Hallo again to all, on Easter day. The Lord is risen indeed!


An ancient mystical tradition holds that a rose, if burnt to ashes, could — given the right person at the right time — be re-formed from those ashes, becoming the fresh dew-dappled bloom that once it was. The legend's origins are obscure, but it's likely part of the general cache of alchemy. No matter, the idea is still mesmerising... The deadest of dead things, a pile of dusty grey cinder, slowly rising in a small cloud-like waft of smoke, idly shaping itself into the stem, thorns, and blossom of a rose — and then becoming again a rose. An ash-reborn rose is still, we presume, the rose it once was. Nothing more, even if nothing less.

Well,we Christians in our beliefs easily outdistance alchemists. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is far more than the reanimation of a corpse. All that was Our Lord becomes yet more after His resurrection, as we will become on 'that great gettin'-up morning', as the old American spiritual has it. The resurrection wasn't God's molecular legerdemain, ashes becoming man again. It was, rather, man becoming more. Vita became Vita Nuova. That third day in the garden had all the freshness and innocence of the first garden called Eden, for the place where Christ was buried — 'X marks the spot' — became the new Eden, the place to begin again.

In his sermon Easter morning at Canterbury Cathedral, the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us all that resurrection has a rather frightening side to it. Just imagine: the dead, whom we think we have put in their place, will indeed live again. All that we were will one day live again, but that 'all' includes the injuries and injustices done to us as well as those we have done. The accountability of one human being to another doesn't end at the grave: the web of connection will continue. Charles Williams solemnly called this 'the weight of glory', part of the burden of life that has no end. Given this, perhaps oblivion might seem an easier fate than eternal life, but it is not a Christian fate. We are doomed to rise, if you will. The dead, the Archbishop goes on to say, are ever with us: the
faithful in countries plagued by death squads stood up against them by reading aloud, at every mass, the names of the victims; for every name, someone in the congregation would announce 'Presente'. 'Here'. Here amongst you, here with you. Always. Forever. After Our Lord's resurrection, everything is different. Everything matters.

The church has long wrestled with the idea that after death there will be the opportunity to grow in wisdom and love (sometimes called Purgatory) and the Anglican tradition is complex. Our church has been somewhat hesitant to pronounce with theological certainty. But the Anglican reluctance to map out the nature of life after death may be wiser than we know. For if we assume that we can make it all 'come right' in some sort of spiritual gymnasium after death, we may be far more careless in this life to walk in love, as Christ loved us. Whatever we know and whatever we don't know about the afterlife, we can rest assured that Our Lord is risen and has become the first-fruit of them that slept. His cross and passion are set 'between our sins and their reward', as the beloved hymn has it, and His resurrection presages our own.

So Easter, with all its joy and hilarity, its radiance and wonder, brings with its glory a weight. Our choices, our loves, our dislikes, our delights, every act done or not done, our pettiness or generosity, kindness or cruelty, all of it — all of us — will never die. In these great 50 days of Eastertide, rejoice, dear friends, with the living and the dead, rejoice with all this round world and whatever lies beyond it, and

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one*.

See you next week. And next Eastertide.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 11 April 2004

*TS Eliot, Little Gidding V, from the Four Quartets

A thin blue line
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