Yesterday, on Holy Saturday, I wasn’t sure I was ready for Easter. Holy Saturday is the church’s day off – the day when the Eucharist is not celebrated, the quiet day, the Sabbath after the great work of the crucifixion.
After a traumatic and tumultuous few weeks, that was where I wanted to be too. The abbreviated prayers of Holy Saturday were as much as I could take. The ongoing agony of Ukraine, and the equal agonies of Yemen and other conflicts across the world; the evil of the UK Government’s attempt to win votes by demonising asylum seekers; the arrogance demonstrated by the fines for parties in 10 Downing St, and the refusal of the Prime Minister to take responsibility; all of these in different ways had left me feeling that I wanted nothing more to do with the world. I needed some time out from caring.
It was personal, too. Having moved to our home in Orkney, and full of anticipation of a new life there, our beloved cat became ill and died. The sadness of that loss drained some of the colour from the world, and made everything else that much harder to bear. Between the personal and the political, it felt as if my heart was too dry, too barren for the new life of the resurrection to take root.
Then came two gifts. One was to sit in a garden full of birdsong and spring flowers, just absorbing the new life bursting out of every corner, allowing myself to be part of the creation, not analysing or changing anything, just being. The second was to be asked to confirm two candidates at the Easter Vigil. I came to the service ready to simulate the energy and joy of Easter, and found myself receiving it, abundantly and exuberantly, from those two people. Neither of them have had easy lives, but they were open to the promise and love of God.
I didn’t need to make myself ready for Easter. Hope is gift, not achievement. The world is not suddenly a better place, I am not suddenly full of energy and raring to go. But I have been given hope that despite all that, Gerard Manley Hopkins was right –
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.