Easter Reflection 2016

7 April 2016 | Reflections From Abbess Mary

Abbey Cross at Sunrise

I would like to begin with the beautiful Easter greeting from the resurrected Jesus which we are hearing again and again in the Readings during these days...

Peace be with you!

Peace be with each one of you during these glorious 50 days of Eastertide. May the Peace of Jesus be in all our hearts and may it be our prayer for one another and for the whole world.

I am sure that it is no accident that Jesus used this greeting on almost every occasion that he appeared to his apostles and disciples. It is remarkable that it is His greeting after the violence of the crucifixion and it teaches us that no matter what troubles befall us in our own lives, no matter how much hatred, cruelty and acts of terror occur in our world, Peace should always be our Christian response...
to think peace, 
to pray peace 
to make peace and
to spread peace.

Another strong message at this time of the year is JOY. Sometimes these days are referred to as the 50 Days of Unbounded Joy! Or, 50 days of Jubiliation! The Church herself states in her liturgical documents that 

... the fifty days from Easter Sunday are celebrated in joyful exaltation as one feast day, or better as one 'great Sunday'. These above all others, are the days for the singing of the Alleluia. 

(General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar GNLYC no 22)

So, we can say that for the whole of Eastertide, every day is Easter Sunday! Many of us will remember that, prior to Vatican II, the Sundays of Easter were termed as Sundays after Easter but in the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, the title was changed to Sundays of Easter. A subtle change but an important one which reminds us that the whole of Eastertide makes Easter Sunday present every day. There is no "after" just "now". 

Easter is happening NOW, the tomb is opened and the Resurrection is occurring NOW at every moment! It's good to be reminded of this so we can begin each day with a waking thought that today is Easter Sunday; today I send forth the greeting of peace; today Jesus walks with me along the road; today I continue to sing my alleluias! 

Of course, a title does not necessarily make an event or a season "happen". Sundays and days of Easter hint at what could be and so the Church also gives us other helps to lift our hearts and remind us of the great "happening", and heart of our faith, which is the triumph of life over death.... for God so loved the world.... he so loves us.

We only have to walk into our church to be uplifted as we see different signs that have long been missing...

Abbey Church at Easter
  • the Paschal Candle so beautifully crafted here in our own Abbey and lit at every Eucharist and throughout the Liturgy of the Hours
  • the flowers have appeared once again in our Church
  • new, blessed water is flowing, clean and free for all to use as a blessing
  • And of course, in all our liturgies, we have uplifting readings, joyful hymns, canticles and responses with alleluias abounding. 

An American liturgist and writer, Gabe Huck, puts it this way: 

Overall, the Eastertime liturgies might be known for their feeling of peace, of gentleness, of the powerful silence in which the seed sprouts, the bud swells, the tomb becomes womb. 

This quiet joy permeates all the gospels of the Easter weeks: Jesus and Mary in the garden, the upper room, the stranger cooking breakfast, the Emmaus supper, the discourse from John's Gospel. 

Every art used in Liturgy serves this spirit, shaping a way for the Church to pray in these weeks, a way that can be repeated year after year. As in every season, we seek the way to express its spirit in sounds, colours, textures, tastes, melodies, movements. A beautiful and resonant Eastertime invites us to celebrate with the fullness of our deeply Christian voices and eyes and hands." 

"A beautiful and resonant Eastertime invites us to celebrate with the fullness of our deeply Christian voices and eyes and hands." That last sentence is worth a second reading and could well provide a lectio for a lifetime.

I believe that what it is saying is that Easter and the Easter liturgies are all set up as a giant invitation. Everything is given to us by way of externals....
signs, 
symbols, 
colour, 
light, 
processions, 
gestures, 
readings, 
music, 
Alleluias...
All are there to entice, 
to beckon, 
to lead us into our own fullness, that fullness where the Christ dwells in our deeply Christian eyes, hearts, minds, voices, hands, souls. 
Our whole lives could become a beautiful and resonant Eastertime...the invitation is there and the choice to respond OR not is always ours!

We had that beautiful reading from Fr Damasus Winzen at Vigils Wednesday morning in which he told us that we are all STARS. God calls to us, He invites us and we, like the stars, respond:

"I am here!"

Every invitation presents us with a choice! Eastertide is no different. The stories we are hearing in the Gospels every day are all about the same thing. 
The resurrected Jesus is appearing, 
popping up everywhere with no warning, 
in gardens, 
on beaches, 
through walls, 
in upper rooms, 
on the road. 
He comes in different guises 
always looking for some recognition, 
always inviting the disciples to open their eyes and their hearts, 
to abandon their old ways and old selves, 
to let go of their sadness and loss and to see him anew, 
to recognize him and respond to the new resurrected life that he offers. 

In many ways, it is heartening for us to hear the stories of how dull so many of them were, how slow to recognize him, how slow to believe. They were the ones who had lived with him, knew him and loved him yet they still needed so much convincing that he was alive and with them again. 
Mary Magdalen thought he was the gardener; Thomas refused to believe until he could touch the holes in his hands;
The disciples spent hours on the road to Emmaus listening to him and still did not really "see" or "hear" or "recognize" until the end of the day; 
Those in the boat out fishing looked and looked at the stranger on the shore preparing breakfast then finally the shackles fell from John's eyes and he proclaimed: "It is the Lord".

We, too, are slow to recognize him. At different times, we are Mary, we are Thomas, we are Peter, we are dim witted disciples. 
Like them we are blessed with so many signs of Easter all around us, 
we are given so many invitations to enter the tomb and believe; 
the Risen Christ is appearing to us in so many guises but we so often fail to see. 
In our busyness or preoccupation, 
we fail to enter into the fullness and joy of this time, 
we do not recognize him when he comes right in front of us on our own roads.

But, let us take heart from being a Mary, a Peter, a Thomas! Jesus never ever gave up on any of them and he kept appearing to teach them 
the art of seeing, 
the art of believing and eventually 
the art of transformation.
They became disciples who were bold and strong and who did enter into the fullness of life in the Risen Christ and proclaimed the Good News of that life to the whole world. 

Abbey Easter Fire

Perhaps that is why we celebrate Easter again and again every year....so we too can 
learn a bit more each year, 
go a bit deeper, 
understand more clearly,
recognize him more often. 

With Gerard Manly Hopkins let us pray often: 

Easter in us,
be a dayspring to the dimness of us.

So, today on this Easter Sunday, and tomorrow on Easter Sunday and every day for these 50 days of unbounded joy, let us firstly, be at peace! Peace be with you,
Peace be with us, 
Peace be with the whole of humanity. 
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid....
Peace be with you. 

Let us also be joyful as we sing our alleluias, 
as we go through our days, 
as we journey on the road with one another. And let us be gentle, 
allowing all the external signs and symbols, 
the readings and psalms, 
the hymns and canticles, 
the candles, 
water, 
music 
and movements 
to wash over us like balm and lead us towards that great invitation 
to go deeper into the Christ the Resurrected one who dwells with us, 
appearing to us again and again 
seeking only that we RECOGNIZE him 
and allow our own hearts to resound with those glorious words 
"IT IS THE LORD!"

~  Everything that lives and that breathes gives praise to the Lord  ~

Jamberoo Abbey

Jamberoo Abbey, Benedictine Nuns
695 Jamberoo Mountain Road,
Jamberoo NSW 2533 Australia

Phone/Fax: 02 42360628
Email: benedictineabbey@bigpond.com