By the time you are reading this, Easter will seem a long way behind you. However, in order to satisfy deadlines, I am writing this on Easter Monday, so the joyful celebrations of yesterday are still ringing in my ears. Allow me, therefore, to reflect a little on what has just passed.
The Gospel narrative for Easter Day leads us to the empty tomb where Mary Magdalene stands weeping. As if it wasn’t bad enough that her Lord and master had been crucified, now she suspects that the body has been stolen by people wishing to cause further harm. What other explanation could there be for the empty tomb? Although Jesus had told them on a number of occasions that though he would die, he would be raised from the dead three days later, resurrection seemed to be the least likely option as she stood there gazing into the empty space.
Indeed, it is often the concept of the resurrection that is the biggest stumbling block to belief. Let me share an experience which helped me to understand the effects of the resurrection even if the actual mechanics remain a mystery.
A few years ago I spent a few days on retreat at a Christian Retreat centre in Surrey, a beautiful Jacobean house with high beamed ceilings and huge fireplaces. The Chapel is a separate, more modern building and in here services of Morning Prayer and evening Prayer are held every day. On my second evening there, I decided to go across to the chapel half an hour before Evening Prayer to spend some time in quiet prayer and reflection. It was quite a small building, perhaps able to accommodate 25 – 30 people and was very dimly lit. At the front of the chapel was a very simple altar and beyond that was the east wall which was predominantly window – just one enormous pane of glass unbroken by any wooden divide. I could see the whole of the inside of the chapel clearly reflected in this window, but because it was dark outside I could see nothing beyond.
As the time for the service approached, I heard a noise as the person who was to lead the service entered the chapel. A few lights were switched on inside the chapel but at the same time, bright spotlights were switched on outside illuminating what lay beyond the east window. I shall never forget that moment. As the reflection of the inside of the chapel where I was sitting became so faint as to almost disappear, I was suddenly aware of a new dimension, previously unseen, opening up on the outside of the chapel beyond the window. Now bathed in a beautiful light, there was a whole new world stretching into the distance with a majestic evergreen tree in the forefront spreading out its branches over a tranquil lake.
A few moments earlier, I had been sitting in a space confined by four walls and a darkened window. In an instant, I was freed from these confines and able to look into this new world, an attractive place which spoke of light and beauty. It is through the resurrection that the walls between earth and heaven have somehow become permeable – we are no longer confined to a purely earthly existence but are able to sample heaven.
On that first Easter morning, when the risen Christ met Mary in the garden he opened up a whole new dimension for the future. On account of the resurrection, the same is possible for all who believe.
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Reverend Sheila Cox
Rector of G7 Benefice