New Beginnings: Easter 2021

Piero della Francesca, The Resurrection, c. 1463-65, fresco, 225 x 200 cm (Museo Civico, Sansepolcro, Italy)

Christ is risen, alleluia, alleluia! Easter is not, as many tend to think, the end of Lent but a new beginning, indeed, the true beginning of everything. With Christ’s resurrection, we too rise to newness of life — not the old one, somehow given a gloss of fresh beauty and truth, but a new life, completely and utterly transformed by his victory over sin and death. The solemn tones of the Triple Alleluia with which we greet the resurrection gospel, or the sober joy of the introit for today’s day Mass, Resurrexi, capture the wonder of what has occurred. The ‘happy fault’ of Adam has given us a Redeemer, a Saviour. All is changed, for ever.

While I was thinking about a suitable image to accompany today’s post, I naturally thought of Piero della Francesca and was delighted to find this photo. The fresco has an unusual history and was only saved from destruction during World War II by Tony Clarke, a British Artillery officer, who disobeyed orders to raze the city of Sansepulcro. This is how the fresco is to be seen nowadays, rather more awkwardly than we are accustomed to seeing it in art books or on screen. I like the fact that Piero’s work was commissioned not for a church but for a civic hall, and that one can ‘read’ a few political details into its imagery. Easter, and the mystery it proclaims, is not just for the ‘religious’ moments of our lives but for every moment.

The next eight days of the Octave are all equally Easter Day when we shall have the opportunity to look at the resurrection from many different angles. This morning, however, it is the hiddenness of the resurrection that we focus on. Mary finds the empty tomb and tells Peter and John that the Lord is not there. Silently, while the world slept, Jesus Christ rose from the dead and will never die again. Our life too is now hidden with his in God — and it is life, not death (cf Romans 6.3-11). Alleluia.

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The Promise is Fulfilled

‘The promise is fulfilled: all is made new.’ With those words we greet the Solemnity of Pentecost, birthday of the Church and the greatest feast of the Church year. Probably a few readers are thinking to themselves, ‘Surely Easter is the greatest feast?’ But please note where I put the emphasis, on the Church year. Pentecost marks the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the whole Church, our commission to mission, so to say. It is a feast that combines transcendence and immanence, grandeur and lowliness, in a most remarkable way. The promise made to our ancestors is fulfilled: we live now the newness of life that Christ our Lord has made possible. The Church is a sign of his presence and action in the world: it is our vocation to be what he is.

For us here at Hendred the promise is fulfilled in another, more material way. Yesterday we collected the keys to our new monastery in Herefordshire and this week we shall be moving in. We shall be offline for a while, at least until BT fits a new telephone line, but prayer never ceases; and very soon Howton Grove Priory will resound to the praises of God as we sing the Lord’s song in a new land. To Him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Bro Duncan inspects his new kennel: Howton Grove Priory
Bro Duncan inspects his new kennel: Howton Grove Priory
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