There is something deeply satisfying about a communion service at an ancient Anglican church in the Shires on Easter Sunday. Loudly singing Jesus Christ Has Risen Today. A bohemian 14th Century hymn, written originally in Latin, and set to familiar and stirring music by …was it Wesley? I’m not sure.
Even if you don’t believe he rose today or on any other day. Even if you suspect the fact he has not returned as promised during the past 2000 years is an indication that he may not be be back at all.
The sense of community was comforting. A traditionally dressed priest, the verger, sidesmen and so on. Tradition, familiarity, continuity. Much appreciated in a universe where entropy ensures that change is the only constant.
To my surprise, the reading from Corinthians talked of overthrowing governments and authority. Never having bothered to read (or perhaps I mean absorb) the Acts and Epistles, the anarchy came as a pleasant and amusing surprise. J.C. after all was a chap who believed in holding goods communally, in living like the lily of the field. Although he denied he wanted to overthrow Rome. Perhaps his followers held a different point of view.
How curious then that a tyrannical church edifice sprang from these egalitarian, anti authoritarian and simple beginnings. What would those early Christians have thought of the might of the Roman Church? The vast wealth of the medieval monasteries and their taste for trade in relics?
All and sundry were there. The scions of a couple of grand local families, a local doctor, an organist and a small choir. My brother in law passed the peace with his usual abandon; my sister, wife, son and I remained quiet and bashful.
I go along with it because they get life right, those people. In general terms. Peace and goodness to all. An end to strife. Although the sermon did pass a slightly partisan reference to the Muslims – something about extremist views on the fire at Notre Dame. Some, it appears, hold that the fire represents the demise of Christianity and a new ascendancy for Islam. What hogwash all round but there we go.
But the core of the service and the sermon held much that is good, in a metaphorical sense. The joint symbols of the phoenix and the resurrection. Notre Dame and the Christian god rising from the ashes. Renewal, recovery from disaster. Good coming from bad. The triumph of rebirth – the seasons coming round time and time again.
After death in winter comes renewed life in the spring and the eventual harvest in autumn, which will tide the world over once again through the bad times.
There is pleasure to be had in reciting the hallowed and familiar words of the service (even if the language was some modern desecration of the beautiful 16th original). There is quiet reflection, music and beauty.
Jesus Christ may not have risen today but something certainly did.