This morning finds Quietnun and me a little ragged after having spent ten hours in the Accident and Emergency Department of our local hospital. It may have been the first time anyone had read through the whole of the Easter Vigil there. It was certainly the first time two Benedictine nuns had done so, and although it wasn’t exactly how we had hoped to greet the Resurrection, crowded on benches, watching one emergency after another stream through the doors, it did remind us of something we tend to forget. Jesus comes to us where we are, not where we would like to be. To him, the A & E suite is as sacred as a basilica, because it is there that he finds his children; and we all know his special tenderness towards the sick and dying. He redeems us from our sins, not from our (largely illusory) misconceptions about ourselves and our own wonderfulness. He comes to us as Saviour and stoops to our need, our real need, not any imaginary need. Above all, he comes to us, not as an abstraction — the Resurrection — but as a person, the Risen Christ. In the face of such great love and mercy, what can we say but ‘alleluia’?
RB 15, which we read today, is all about the times for saying ‘Alleluia’. Has it ever struck you as odd that Benedict should devote a whole chapter of his Rule, admittedly a very short one, to when Alleluia should be said and with what parts of the Office? It is another little reminder of the centrality of Easter to his thought. The Rule hinges on the great paschal feast, just as the life of the monk or nun hinges on the fact of the Resurrection. To quote again my favourite saying of the Desert Fathers, ‘The monk’s cell is like Easter night, for it sees Christ rising.’
Traditionally, we associate Friday with remembrance of the Passion and Death of our Lord, but they are incomplete without reference to his triumph. So, if you are performing some penance in memory of him, don’t forget to do it gladly. ‘God loves a cheerful giver.’