Easter Vigil

Since the beginning of Lent we have journeyed with the Israelites through the wilderness, and struggled with the author of Hebrews to understand what Jesus has done for us; we have wondered with Isaiah over the ‘suffering servant’ and lamented with Jeremiah.  And through all of this the light of Resurrection has continued to shine… even in the darkest hour.

A phrase that I read halfway through Lent has stayed with me:  There is hope within his hopelessness; there is obedience behind his doubt.  This is the scripture scholar Tom Wright trying to come to terms with the problem of Jesus being truly God and fully human.  He speaks of Jesus, as he goes to his trial and execution, as no longer desiring, but ‘intending’ to do God’s will.  Lord, if this cup may not pass me by, but I must drink it, then Thy will be done.   Here, he says, is the clue.  Jesus was tested in all ways – all the doubts and temptations that we share, he shared – and yet he did not sin.  He remained obedient – always listening – to the Father.  For those of us steeped in the Rule of Benedict we cannot hear the word ‘obedience’ without also hearing the word LISTEN.  Jesus, above all, was obedient, always ‘listening’ to the Father, and listening, again with the force that Benedict gives it, of ‘doing’ his will.  Listening for Him is both contemplative and active, all of a piece.  In his doubt he remains obedient.

In His hopelessness he holds on to hope.  As St. Paul says: nobody goes on hoping for something which can already be seen.  But having  hope for what we cannot yet see, we are able to wait for it with persevering confidence.  Jesus’ hope is the flower of his love for the Father.  It is not that he can see beyond the cross or the tomb.  Again we hear echoes of our Benedictine heritage: Receive me, Lord, according to your promise and I shall live.  Do not disappoint me in my hope. 

Jesus has died, and risen, he has entered into the Father’s presence, into the ‘holy of holies’,  into the very heart of God, … accomplishing for us  a redemption that lasts forever.  Jesus, the pioneer of our faith, has entered, through our baptism, that deepest core of ourselves, where we really are who we are.  Christ is in us, healing, redeeming and setting us free. 

And may he lead us all together to everlasting life!

The Tomb

What is happening?
Today there is a great silence over the earth,
a great silence,
and stillness,
a great silence
because the king sleeps.

Jesus

All you who pass this way, look and see: is any sorrow like the sorrow that afflicts me.
No sorrow is too great for me to bear.

He has made a yoke for me and encircled my head with weariness.
No yoke is too heavy.

He was blocked my way with cut stones, he has made my path crooked.
I will walk the path for you.

Judas

Have all
my choices
led to this day?
What are you prepared to give
me if I hand him over to you?
Was I destined
to be the one
who betrayed
Him?
From  that moment he looked for
an opportunity to betray him.
Or was it just
one bad choice?
Not I, Rabbi, surely?

 

 

 

Peter

I’ve never really
understood
the things
you’ve said,
but I have
listened.
I’ve never really
seen
the path,
but I have
followed.
I’ve never really
felt
                                                            your pain,
                                                            but I have
                                                            loved.

Let us run with him

 

Palm Sunday has something of a bittersweet feel about it in terms of liturgy and the sentiment that is expressed through words and gesture. I always find it difficult to enter into the scene by actually waving my palm branch. Is this natural reserve, or is there something different going on?  

This evening in our Vigil service we will listen to part of a sermon by St Andrew of Crete, an 8th century bishop. I have always found this a helpful text at the beginning of Holy Week and I think his approach goes some way to helping me find a point of entry into the Palm Sunday liturgy. 

Come then, let us run with him as he presses on to his passion. Let us imitate those who have gone out to meet him, not scattering olive branches or garments or palms in his path, but spreading ourselves before him as best we can, with humility of soul and upright purpose. So we may welcome the Word as he comes, so may God who cannot be contained within any bounds, be contained within us. 

So it is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours. But we have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, or with the whole Christ- ‘for as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ’- so let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet. 

Not only is this invitation poignant at the beginning of Holy Week, but it also encapsulates something of the monastic journey.  

Image: Hosanna
John Coburn

  

 

Lazarus

           A View of Lazarus
See he is coming from the tomb. His eyes
Need shelter from the light. We crowd and press
Towards him, some say nothing. One or two
Whisper. Others look afraid but stare,
Most turn their eyes away. Such a strange
Light is coming from behind the man   
Brought back from death and coughing in the breeze.  
One by one his senses set to work
To ease this man to us. A look of loss
Shows on his features but he does not speak.
Some begin to question him about
What dying felt like and how he did break
Back to us. He can relive our doubt,

But he seems dumb and we don’t want to make 
His rising difficult although we long
To look back at the glimmering kingdom he
Has left, if Paradise is there
But is not for the snatching. Lazarus now
Opens his eyes and it’s at us he stares
As if we all were strangers. Then it’s odd,
But we feel we should stop talking. Lazarus is,
Yes no doubt of it, now shedding tears,
And whispering quietly, God, O no, dear God.

I found this poem some years ago and made a photocopy of it. Unfortunately I didn’t write down the author and now it’s haunting me. I thought it was Elizabeth Jennings, but I can’t see it listed amongst her poems. Does anyone know who wrote it?
Thanks to Tess for researching this. My hunch was right, it is Elizabeth Jennings