Saturday, 11 April 2020

‘Do not be afraid’ …
‘‘Peace be with you!’ The
Easter words of hope

The Resurrection … a stained glass window in Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Easter Eve, Saturday 11 April 2020:

Saturday 11 April (Easter Eve):

7 pm:
The Easter Eucharist (HC 2), Kilnaughtin (Tarbert)

9 pm: The Easter Eucharist (HC 2), Askeaton

Readings: Jeremiah 31: 1-6; the Easter Anthems (sung as Hymn 286, CD 17); Colossians 3: 1-4; Matthew 28: 1-10.

The women at the tomb … a stained glass window in Saint Ann’s Church, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!


‘After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb’ (Matthew 28: 1).

Tonight’s story of the Resurrection is filled with fear: the guards at the tomb shake with fear and become like dead men; the women are so visibly filled with fear that they have to be calmed down and are told: ‘Do not be afraid.’

It was such a shocking time for the disciples that first Easter weekend. It is a weekend filled with experiences of fear, isolation, betrayal, abandonment and a lonely death.

In two Gospel accounts, Saint Matthew and Saint Mark, the last words of the dying Christ on the cross include a cry that expresses the bitter agony of dying alone: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

It is a literary device of the time to quote a psalm’s opening words to put its full thoughts into the mouth of a speaker. In this case, the dying Christ is quoting Psalm 22, which begins by asking why God seemingly cannot hear ‘the words of my distress’:

O my God, I cry in the daytime,
but you do not answer;
by night as well, but I find no rest.


In these restless days, as people feel fearful, isolated and betrayed, as they watch their loved ones die in bitter agony, feeling abandoned and alone in their final hours, the cry to God of the dying Christ on the Cross on Good Friday has become the everyday cry of many people of faith in the despair created by the Covid-19 pandemic and in their forced isolation.

It would be too easy, but meaningless, to respond or to reply with easy platitudes that speak about having hope and looking forward to the new life promised in the Resurrection and Easter.

And yet, there are so many resonances with today’s stories in the Easter story as it unfolds in the Gospels.

Christ too is buried hurriedly without the presence of his friends, with few members of his family present. Two men who are not part of his inner circle, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, attend to the hasty burial. After his death, his closest friends, the disciples, hide away in fear, locked behind closed doors, fretful for the future.

Yet Psalm 22 ends with hope not just for the future but for future generations:

The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live for ever!
(Psalm 22: 26)

For those of us who are worried about not opening our church doors this Easter, we should remind ourselves of how the apostles were locked away too in fear that first Easter. Fear of death, fear of the unknown, fear of what the future may hold, are often at the heart of motivating communal religious experiences and responses.

At first, the disciples fail to realise the possibility of a new future. The men stay behind closed doors while the women visit the tomb early that morning. It takes some time for them to accept the news the women bring back from the empty tomb. But for the next 40 days, two phrases are repeated constantly by the Risen Christ: ‘Peace be with you!’ and ‘Be not afraid!’

Christ repeats these words over and over again … for, even in the darkest days, there is always hope, and hope that offers new life.

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!


Mary Magdalene at Easter … a sculpture by Mary Grant at the west door of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford/Lichfield Gazette)

Matthew 28: 1-10 (NRSVA):

1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’

‘Do not be afraid’ (Matthew 28: 5) … words on a gable end on Richmond Street in Portobello, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: White (or Gold).

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ
you have overcome death
and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
Grant that, as by your grace going before us
you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples
and said, Peace be with you.
Then were they glad when they saw the Lord.
(John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Living God,
for our redemption you gave your only-begotten Son
to the death of the cross,
and by his glorious resurrection
you have delivered us from the power of our enemy.
Grant us so to die daily unto sin,
that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his risen life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

or:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

A panel depicting the Resurrection of Christ in the Royal or MacMahon tomb in the Franciscan Friary, Ennis, Co Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Hymns:

260, Christ is alive! Let Christians sing (CD 16)
258, Christ the Lord is risen again (CD 16)
255, Christ is Risen, alleluia (CD 16)

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

Praying through Lent with
USPG (46): 11 April 2020

‘Vergesst es nie’ (‘Never Forget’) … Kristallnacht and the Holocaust recalled in a memorial at the Neue Synagoge (New Synagogue), Berlin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We have arrived at the last day of Lent and today is Easter Eve or Holy Saturday [11 April 2020]. Late this evening, when Lent comes to an end, I should be celebrating and preaching at the Easter Eucharist in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry (7 p.m.) and Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (9 p.m.). However, these are not normal times, and on the advice of the Bishop, all services have been cancelled for the past few weeks in these dioceses. This situation continues to be reviewed and monitored with the bishop and the archdeacons.

Throughout Lent this year, I have been using the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Holocaust, so I am illustrating my reflections each morning with images that emphasise this theme.

USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

Throughout this week (5 to 11 April 2020), Holy Week, the USPG Prayer Diary has taken as its theme this week, ‘The Right Time.’ This was introduced last Sunday by the Revd Rana Khan, Rector of Crickhowell, Cwmdu and Tretower in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, Wales.

In his introduction, he wrote, ‘Sometimes certain patches of our personal experiences or communal history create fears and concerns and we don’t welcome Christ in our lives and societies. Christ is always looking for the right time but sometimes instead of allowing God to execute his plans, we react according to our human fears. Let us pray … that God gives us a fresh understanding of the restoration and change he wants to bring – both in and through us.’

Saturday 11 April 2020 (Holy Saturday):

Lord help us learn patience, and give peace to all those who watch and wait.

The Readings: Job 14: 1-14 or Lamentations 3: 1-9, 19-24; Psalm 31: 1-4, 15-16; I Peter 4: 1-8; Matthew 27: 57-66 or John 19: 38-42.

The Collect (Easter Eve):

Grant, Lord,
that we who are baptised into the death
of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
may continually put to death our evil desires
and be buried with him;
and that through the grave and gate of death
we may pass to our joyful resurrection;
through his merits, who died and was buried
and rose again for us,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Series concluded

Yesterday’s reflection