I am writing this message in the early morning of Easter Eve in Assisi. The night before some of my family and I walked in procession behind the figures of the dead Jesus and the heart-pierced Mary, after re-enacting the catastrophe of the crucifixion.
This time is that vacant, unusual and dismaying space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday morning. This is the only time in the Christian year when we are left with a gap in meaning and purpose. A time of waiting in the darkness of death and the apparent victory and permanence of the grave. The destruction and finality of the grave is all we have in this part of the story - just as it seemed to those on the road to Emmaus a few days later.
This is a time when we are reminded that we have a basic choice in this life: to give up on life because the shadows seem overwhelming and permanent, or to step out into the darkness trusting in the possibility of the dawn. A time to hope or a time to despair.
Easter teaches us that giving up on hope is always wrong, even in the face of what you believe to be certain destruction. Despair privileges the mind over the soul. It assumes you know what the ultimate outcome of all things will be. You do not. You cannot. That lies in the power and mind of God alone.
To believe in despair is to assume that your negative impression is the controlling force in the way the world will work itself out. This is to underestimate the grace and love of God whose freedom and capacity for resurrection is beyond our limited individual understanding.
On Easter Eve we find ourselves disorientated between death and new life, between destruction and resurrection, between despair and a living hope. In this place we have to make a decision: to acknowledge the reality of tragedy and dying while yet waiting with an open heart for new life, or to give up on hope and to lose faith and trust in God’s open future.
To hope against hope is to choose the potentials of life over death because of the grace and power of the Easter story. Without faith in the truth of this story we are condemned to a life-denying despair which finally leads nowhere.
In God we trust. This is an act of faith that is a real choice. There is no full proof for it in the scientific sense. But its transforming truth had been witnessed to for two thousand years in the stories and lives of an Easter people.
Even when the Church lets itself and others down, there can be a sense of accompaniment and fresh discovery that overcomes our weakness. This grace comes from a strength and a living hope which we cannot create ourselves. This is a hope which re-creates us. In this hope we live and move and have our being.
The Anglican Centre in Rome is a UK
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Interim Director: The Very Revd Dr John Shepherd
Deputy Director: Revd Dr Justin Lewis-Anthony
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