It was being verged into the Cathedral to preside and preach at the 9.00am Eucharist when it struck me. The forecast had not been so good for today – rain, heavy showers, even thunder it said on my phone. But we had been able to go into the churchyard during the Vigil and the Bishop had lit and blessed the new fire there – and the rain held off. But as I walked into the Cathedral for the next eucharist the sun had risen to a point where it was shining directly through the east window with such brilliance. It was almost blinding in its intensity and surprised me – I hadn’t realised the sky had cleared and the sun was shining. There was something so thrilling about it and whatever the rest of the day held, weather-wise, that was a blessing in itself.
The day has continued in that way. At the Choral Eucharist there was hardly a seat to be had in the Cathedral, everywhere there were people. What was amazing was that people had remembered to change their clocks, to lose an hour and still come to the Cathedral. I looked down the nave and into the transepts and it was like the world in miniature – people of all ages, people from all backgrounds, women and men, old and young, people who I knew, people who I didn’t -and all eager to celebrate Easter. The liturgy and the music were wonderful but even they, as powerful as they were, were carried by the energy that all these people brought into the place.
We always conclude that service by giving bags of Easter eggs out, principally to all the children there but also to all those who’ve contributed in some way to Holy Week. The Friends of the Cathedral had prepared 300 bags – and they all went. So many children, including the boy and girl choristers, so many volunteers – servers, Stewards, the flower arrangers, the Hospitality Team – and some paid members of staff, musicians, vergers, all making the Cathedral what it is.
Afterwards I was loitering at the west end as clergy do, saying goodbye and a happy Easter to people. A woman came up to me. ‘I told everyone I was leaving the Church of England for another denomination. I announced it. But I came here today and I’m staying, I’m not going.’ She went on to talk about the inclusive nature of the place, of the sense of joy, of the energy that she had experienced as she worshipped with us. It felt like those moments that clergy and other preachers are familiar with when one person comes up to you after a service and says ‘Your sermon spoke to me today – it was exactly what I needed to hear’ – and no one else makes a comment. That happens more often than you would perhaps imagine. It’s as though, sometimes, what we do is for one person, for one individual – and that’s fine and that’s how it should be – as though the whole community is ministering to, holding one person who needs to be held, then, at that moment.
It reminded me of the deeply personal approach that Jesus takes with Mary Magdalene. She was so locked into her grief, she was so distraught that only her name, spoken by the Lord, could bring her out of it and awaken her to joy.
‘Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).’ (John 20.16)
It was as though, at that moment, Easter happened for her and she was rescued by the Risen Christ and set on the apostolic path to help bring others to the faith that now filled her renewed and reborn heart.
That rising sun was so powerful for me that just for a moment it was my Easter, as this has been my Holy Week. But of course it is our Easter, it has been our Holy Week in which each of us, in our rich diversity, is ministered to as beloved sons and daughters, brothers and sisters by the one who was born and who rose ‘for us and for our salvation’.
It has been a wonderful Holy Week, brim full of blessing. Thank you for sharing it with me.
Alleluia. Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
There is no other song, there is no other prayer worthy of this day.