READ: John 20:19-23
“On the evening of that first Sunday, when the disciples were hiding behind locked doors out of fear of the Temple authorities, Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ He then showed them his wounds, both the wounds in his hands and the wound in his side. The disciples then realized that it was the Risen Lord and they began to rejoice. Jesus said once more, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent me so I send you. He then breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of others, they are forgiven, but if you do not, their sins have not been forgiven.'” – John 20:19-23
On that first Easter evening, while the sound of the nails being driven into the cross was still ringing in their ears, the disciples waited in fear, the fear of hearing those heavy footsteps of soldiers approaching, then the pounding on the door meaning the soldiers now came for them. They must have been asking themselves and each other, “What was ahead for each of them? Crucifixion! Was it all over? What happened to those shouts of “Hosanna”, those shouts of a rising revolution that echoed in these same streets on Palm Sunday, but seven days ago? Were the rumors true? Had Jesus truly risen from the dead? And if He did, what did it mean, what would He expect of them?” And then … in the midst of them … Jesus suddenly appeared … and He brought to them the comfort of peace and the challenge of mission. “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent me so I send you.”
For all my years of pastoring, some forty years of Easter Sundays, I always experienced the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus at the close of the Easter Sunday service. Sometimes by small country choirs, few in number and not quite on key; sometimes by large city choirs with a hundred plus voices with orchestra beside. But always we left Easter Sunday with the sound of angelic trumpets and glorious cannonade … that somehow, far too quickly, faded away. (I sometimes wondered if for some folks who came only at Easter they thought we ended every Sunday service with the Hallelujah Chorus!) But this year, my Easter Sunday was experienced at Greyfriars’ Abbey. It meant keeping watch in the candlelit chapel all through the night, praying in the shadows, then eventually welcoming the sunrise with chanted Psalms. Then each monk and novice came and knelt one by one before the Abbot re-consecrating ourselves to the Holy Work, and then leaving the chapel not with thunderous chorus but with a rather quiet joy as we joined together in our traditional Easter benediction, then out the old oak doors to plant flower seeds in the monastery gardens. For you see, here at Greyfriars’ Abbey, Easter means … planting time … planting seeds of hope in joyful expectation. Easter is the springtime of our souls and of our life together.
No marching out the door with the Hallelujah Chorus, but rather instead the traditional Easter benediction given for a monastic community. The Abbot shouts, “Christ is Risen!” And the monks answer, “He is Risen, indeed!” Then the Abbot calls out, “If He is Risen, then let us be about the Work to which we have been called!!” And then we go forth and plant seeds in the joyful expectation of a harvest on the way.
As I write these words from my hermitage, here on this Monday after Easter, Brother Andrew is mowing the adjacent field, the first mowing of this new year. And the air is filled with that fragrance of new mowed grass. And the air smells like Springtime here at Greyfriars’ Abbey, it smells like Easter has come upon us and is beginning to grow … into gardens of flowers and fields of grain, into missions of love and works of mercy … Yes, the air is filled with the Presence of Easter, our hopeful faith in Christ and Christ’s hopeful faith in us.
May Easter keep growing and growing … all over the world.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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