While it doesn’t work in every part of the world, the Seasons (as
we experience them in the UK) and the Christian year do tend to
work quite nicely at this time of year. The journey through Lent, a
time of preparation, denial, fasting, and discipline has been made
in days of long nights and short days, cold weather and rain. Then
as Easter begins to move into view, snowdrops are followed by
daffodils. The death of winter gives way to the new life of the Spring. Spirits lift. Without the rain, eyes rise from the pavement to one another’s faces; heavy coats that protect and hide us away from each other are discarded once again.
I suspect I love the Spring as much as I do because of those wintry months. The appreciation of these heights is all the more acute because we went down to the depths first and spent that time longing for the new day to dawn and the sun to shine.
Spring brings joy, in part, because of winter. Easter Sunday brings joy, in part, because of Good Friday. It makes no sense without both. I love the hope of resurrection because I know something of the frailty of the depths that exist in our own human fragility. I take too many funerals and sit with too many families in their own depths to not have a sense of appreciation for hope renewed and recast in new ways in the midst of the pain.
As the Psalmist put it, nearly three thousand years ago,
“Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30.5
I take heart knowing that Jesus, my God with human face, experienced all that we experience. I can pray because I know that in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed honestly about the most painful of all depths that he was about to experience.
In this last fortnight, Pope Francis I has signalled a change of perspective for my Roman Catholic friends and, continuing that thought about prayer, in this country Archbishop Justin Welby began work saying “let us provoke each other to heed the call of Christ… committed in prayer to Christ, and we will see a world transformed” (my emphasis).
A recent ICM survey noted that four in every five British adults believe in the power of prayer. Do you? I’m not surprised, given that many people, regardless of whether I ever see them in church worshipping, often will say, ‘Pray one for me’. Indeed, there’s a Church of England website www.prayoneforme.org where people can make prayer requests and know that Clergy, Monks and Nuns will pray on their behalf. You may like to check it out.
When I’m asked, it is always my privilege to pray such prayers, of course. But the message of Easter is that no other intermediary is necessary. In the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, a way is made and our prayers can be heard. There are all sorts of methods of prayer but the key thing is always that those who wish to do so, have that Easter confidence and faith about them to lift their eyes, look for a new day to dawn and welcome the sun, asking it to shine.