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Easter: something we live and breathe


Bishop Jeremy Greaves explores the meaning of Easter, as an event that transcends a single day and should impact the whole of our lives: “Perhaps that’s why we get the great 50 Days of Easter – so we can practise ‘living and breathing’ it for just a little while before we pack it all away for another year”

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When I was at theological college in Adelaide, Easter was the high point of the college year. All parish placements were put on hold, trips away with family were not permitted and the whole college community spent Holy Week in preparation for the Triduum. The student in charge of the grounds (me) had a particularly busy week making sure lawns were mowed, hedges trimmed, windows washed and gravel pathways raked. It was a time to try new liturgies or breathe new life into old ones and it all reached its great crescendo on Easter Sunday.

We would gather before dark to kindle the first fire of Easter and then process to the darkened chapel which gradually filled first with candlelight and then with light from the morning sun…and then one year there were balloons and streamers let down from the ceiling with the first exclamation of “Christ is Risen! Alleluia!” It was a noisy, messy, joy-filled celebration of the resurrection that stays in my mind as one of the most moving times of worship I can remember.

But even more clearly, I can remember arriving for Morning Prayer the following day. The chapel had been cleaned and tidied to within an inch of its life – there was not a balloon to be seen, not a shred of streamer, nor sparkle of glitter…it was as if Easter had never happened.

Of course, I was less discreet and less sensitive than I am now, so I said as much in my chapel sermon the following day, “It’s almost as if we can’t cope with what Easter might really mean, so we’ve packed it up and put it away until we get it out again next year.”

The sacristan who had been up late into the night cleaning, fled the chapel in tears. I was summoned to the Warden’s office (again).

Of course I would choose my words differently today (hopefully) but I stand by the sentiment.

Perhaps author and theologian Brian McLaren says it better: “Since it occurs once a year, Easter Sunday is sometimes mistaken for a commemorative anniversary of a past event…[but] Easter isn’t something we remember. It’s something we live and breathe.”

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams suggests that the resurrection isn’t just an idea we talk about or believe, it’s something we become. He writes that: “the believer’s life is a testimony to the risen-ness of Jesus: he or she demonstrates that Jesus is not dead by living a life in which Jesus is the never-failing source of affirmation, challenge, enrichment and enlargement – a pattern, a dance, intelligible as a pattern only when its pivot and heart become manifest. The believer shows Jesus as the centre of his or her life.”

Perhaps that’s why we get the great 50 Days of Easter – so we can practise ‘living and breathing’ it for just a little while before we pack it all away for another year. I wonder, though, how our lives might look different and how our world and our church might look different if we lived and breathed Easter in all of our lives and so became a source of “affirmation, challenge, enrichment and enlargement” for the world.

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