Happy and Blessed Easter

An Easter message from our 'Bishop in residence'

Written by: Lazzaro Pietragnoli on Apr 01, 2021. Category: News

canterbury cross


It is only as I get older that I begin to see how often you face something in life you feel will crush you, only to look back some time later and realise that you have survived it. Indeed, risen above it. It may be horrible and painful at the time, but you get through it. It may bruise you, damage you and change you. You may always carry the scars (as Jesus does) but it does not overcome you. Somewhere, somehow, deep within the tomb of your darkest night the divine spark jumps out of the darkness and re-energises you with life and hope.

I put this amazing resilience of human beings down to what I call the spiritual template of Easter. If Good Friday is about suffering, pain and death, and if Easter Saturday is about bewilderment, bereavement and fear, then Easter Sunday is about transformation, joy, renewal and life. And that pattern of Good Friday through to Easter Sunday is like a spiritual template given to all of us, to be overlaid against every experience of life.

We are painfully aware of the long Easter Saturday the world has experienced as a result of Covid-19. The pandemic has filled our world with a prolonged period of uncertainty, confusion, perplexity, and a bewildering array of emotions that we have not yet fully started to untangle. Our emergence from this will be a form of resurrection as Saturday gives way to Sunday, but our post-covid ‘resurrection’ will leave us changed and – again, like Jesus – not recognisably the same.

Perhaps Jesus will say the same words to us as he did to his disciples in their own resurrection moment: Peace be with you.

Peace. I’m sure there is something here about individual reassurance, but more than anything it’s about Shalom, that extraordinary – almost supernatural – phenomenon of community relationships realigned by reference to the presence of the risen Christ.

My hope is that we can emerge into this new ‘day’ in the life of our planet with our common life transformed. Is it too much to hope for a more just world, a fairer society, simpler lifestyles and a more humble approach to the earth? Shalom indeed. That is certainly the vision behind the work CUF is doing in communities up and down the country, working somewhere between the ‘now’ of a Covid Good Friday and the ‘not yet’ of Covid’s Easter Sunday, between the painful reality of the pandemic’s effect on already-challenged parts of our society and the Shalom we might realise if we reach towards it.

When I was made a bishop I adopted the Canterbury Cross as my ‘emblem’. The Canterbury Cross (see image above) follows the design of a Saxon brooch, dating from the 9th Century, discovered at Canterbury in 1867. Hence its name.

It is full of symbolism. Circular, inclusive and dynamic, it has layers and depths of meaning aplenty. It is clearly a cross. It takes us back to the death of Jesus, and as such it embraces suffering and pain, all the anguish of human experience.

But it is a cross made up of 8 segments, and the number 8 has great biblical significance. It is 7 + 1. That is to say, 7 – the perfect number – plus one. And this speaks of new life, the renewal of creation, and new possibilities. In Biblical terms the number 8 is the day of Resurrection, the first day of a new week, 7 days plus one.

The Canterbury Cross therefore embraces Resurrection as well as Death. It holds within it both Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Doubt and Faith, Disaster and Triumph, Death and Resurrection. It faces the worst but assumes the best.

I still wear my episcopal ring, which bears the emblem of the Canterbury Cross. It’s a constant reminder to me that every death bears within it the seeds of resurrection. In everything I face, even the very worst things, I will try to look for the Gift, the promise of renewal, because as followers of Christ we are always to walk in hope.

Peace be with you.

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The Rt Revd Adrian Newman is Church Urban Fund's 'Bishop in residence', a title constructed with the aim that he will support CUF in a range of ways to help the Charity as it develops a refreshed role in church and society over the coming years.

Adrian

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