Dear Parents, Guardians and Friends,
May the God of Love whose presence is revealed in the troubling and troubled faces of the war-torn, be revealed in all your touches of sacrificial love and generosity. This letter comes to you in the first of the two weeks of ‘Passiontide’ [the second week being ‘Holy Week’].
Easter begins on Sunday 17th April at dawn, as it was at dawn that Christians hold that Jesus was raised, much to the bewilderment of most of his followers both then and now! It’s understandable that many call this time Easter. The habit has established itself in the same way as for the two months at the end of each year, the term Christmas has eclipsed the Season of Advent. There are several reasons for this; one being commercial retail pressure, along with decreasing familiarity with the story of Jesus Passion. My strong suggestion to you is that you give time in the next days to reading St Mark’s Gospel Chapter 14 to the end – the shortest and simplest narrative of the Passion of Jesus. Take your time over your reading and stop when something in the words touches you. Read, Ponder and Be Silent with the Passion – and, of course, Easter.
Here’s a story which I shared with the school at the Passiontide Eucharist on the last day of term, which I think you’ll appreciate no matter what you do or do not believe.
Reuben was a small boy, who happened to live next door to Peter’s family; Peter being one of Jesus closest friends. Reuben hadn’t understood what his neighbour saw in Jesus. He had a close friend in a little bird: a robin, so much so that every time Reuben left his house, he came to sit on Reuben’s head or on his right shoulder. Many a conversation the two had, including about Peter and this strange man called Jesus. One day, when Reuben left his house to look after the goats, as usual the Robin sat on Reuben’s head. “Stop!” Whispered the robin in Reuben’s ear . “What’s wrong?” asked Reuben. “Look in the distance. There’s that hill and it has three crosses on it.” “Yes, I know. Why do we humans treat each other so brutally?” Reuben answered, almost angrily. The robin whispered that he wanted Reuben to notice three crosses, in the middle, there was Jesus nailed to the cross. Even at that distance, it was obvious that Jesus was dying – and quickly. The robin flew from Reuben’s right shoulder towards Jesus’ cross, where he sat on Jesus’ head. Reuben, still at a safe distance, sensed that they were whispering to each other, but had no idea what they were saying. He noticed that the robin bent down to whisper in Jesus ear as closely and quietly as he could. As the robin bent down, he felt a piercing pain in his chest. Through his chest feathers, one of the thorns of Jesus ‘crown’ had pierced the robin. With that he flew back to Reuben, who offered to clean the robin’s wound. “No. Leave my breast red as a reminder to whoever looks at me, that Jesus’ suffering is still happening. My red breast is call to sacrificial love and generosity, as was Jesus’ call. The robin [red-breast] and Reuben heard that Jesus body was put in a huge save. Two days later, Reuben was woken while it was still dawn by the robin singing outside. When Reuben went out, the robin sitting on Reuben’s head pointed to Reuben to go to Peter’s house next door. As they were about to knock on the door, a tall man with a pale drawn face came to Peter’s door. When Peter opened the door, there was Jesus, with a robin red-breast sitting on his head.
Now, of course, there’s no historical ‘truth’ in that story. However, using the word ‘myth’ properly, the ‘truth’ of the story carries a profound wake-up call, which only stories, poetry, music and, of course, loving action itself can do.
I hope you will take the opportunity to attend as much of the drama of Passiontide being told each day of Holy Week, starting this Sunday: Palm Sunday. You’ll find details on the Exeter Cathedral website. Become part of the story.
Here’s a beautiful poem that can live with when Easter comes. It’s by the 17th century poet and priest, George Herbert on Easter.
I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.
The Sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, & th’ East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.
Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.
May the wounded love of Christ arise in you that you may be a bringer of sacrificial love and hope.