By Rev’d Phil Wales, Cathedral Deacon
Very early on Easter morning people gathered in the Cathedral’s quire to begin the Easter vigil. And of course, similar services took place in countless churches throughout the world that morning. Dawn had not quite broken as we started to celebrate the time when, for Christians, everything changed: when ‘before’ became ‘after’. It was the moment when humanity, through the eyes of those very first disciples, become aware, one by one, that Jesus’ crucifixion was not the end. The meaning of His death days earlier was transformed when they encountered the risen Lord. And so, Easter is the day, the season, when, more than ever, we wear our hearts on our sleeves and joyfully proclaim: “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia.”
Yet during our celebrations, and for a while afterwards, my mind kept circling back to a formational episode in the early 1990s. It was a time when my younger self would never have thought it credible that, decades later, ‘Christ is risen’ would become my credo.
Sometime during my mid-20s I trained to become a family therapist. This involved creating scenarios where the trainees enacted the roles of different, fictionalised, family members (for example, mother, father, stepdaughter, brother, twins and so on) to help us to understand their viewpoints. We were discovering, metaphorically speaking, what it was like to walk a mile in their shoes; the gift of empathy. One of my tutors, Mark Hayward, impressed on us the idea that our beliefs about ourselves and our relationships with one another aren’t neatly bundled up as pre-drafted scripts but are they are shaped and formed through our interactions and relationships, moment by moment. He summed this up in the phrase that “to know what we believe [about ourselves, others, in fact anything] we need to hear ourselves say it.”
This act of voicing our inner reality in the conversations we have is at the same time both an everyday, normal part of life and awe inspiring. Our words and actions convey something of who we are, either intentionally or otherwise to others and ultimately to God. And that we exist at all and can give expression to our thoughts is truly miraculous.
I cannot be certain but perhaps that memory of my training was reawakened by my recent re-reading of a series of reflections which were published throughout Lent. A different person contributed to this novel Lenten challenge each day. Each participant had to limit themselves to no more than a few words to make sure it could be posted without any further editing. This resulted in a diverse, thought provoking, insightful, inspiring and creative of collection of thoughts. Each one conveyed reverence for God’s gift of relationship with Him refracted through each person’s embodied credo lived out through their loving devotion to the one who died and rose again.
Great is the mystery of faith:
Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again
The Lenten reflections have been gathered together here if you wish to view them.