Rector’s Letter February 2016

With Easter coming early this year Lent is almost upon us – Ash Wednesday is on the 10th February. As I write it seems strange to be preparing for Lent when we have only just finished celebrating Christmas and Epiphany! It’s very tempting to wish that Easter could be moved to a fixed day each year (say for the sake of argument, the second Sunday of April) to make life easier and give us time to ‘catch our breath’ between the various seasons.

Apparently the Archbishop of Canterbury has recently been in discussions with the leaders of other Christian Churches about this very subject – the possibility of agreeing a fixed time for Easter. This would certainly be popular with government, businesses; schools etc, as planning would be so much easier if Easter was always at the same time.

As it happens it’s actually very unlikely that all the Churches will agree to a fixed Easter any time soon, although it’s possible that the secular powers might decide to do it anyway whatever Christians may think. Remember how some years ago the Spring Bank Holiday replaced the previous Whitsun Holiday – this could conceivably happen to Easter too. If it does, I wonder if the churches will fall into line or will they continue to keep Easter according to the ancient rules whenever the official ‘Easter’ Bank Holiday falls?

I have to say that I am not at all keen on the idea of a fixed Easter. It may be tempting to want to tidy things up and make things easier for ourselves – and this year in particular it would be good to have a few more weeks to prepare for the coming of Lent. But Easter is not about our convenience. The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus are simply not tidy and convenient events. Because Christ has died and is risen, everything has changed and men and women are invited to respond to Him with the offering of their lives to the Living One who proclaims that He will be with us to the end of time.

Of course we could celebrate all this just as well if Easter was at the same time each year as we do when it continues to be calculated by complicated rules connected with the waxing and waning of the moon. But somehow it would seem as if we were trying to tame the untamable and reduce the greatest event in human history to a convenience.

You may be wondering why I am writing about Easter when Lent has yet to begin. But Lent is, above all, a time of preparation for the keeping of Holy Week and Easter – part of the same ‘package’. Originally a time when people were prepared for Baptism at the Easter Vigil and those who had sinned gravely were given an opportunity to do penance, Lent gradually became a time when Christians in general prepared for Holy Week and Easter by a time of penitence and spiritual growth.

Seeing Lent as above all a time of preparation for the keeping of Holy Week and Easter will certainly help to give it focus – in the same way as an approaching examination helps us to learn! I usually approach Lent with a mixture of excitement and fear! Excitement – because I appreciate the opportunity to grow in my spiritual life; fear – because I am lazy and would prefer to be left in peace (especially when Lent is so early!). Nothing can make me worthy to keep Holy Week and Easter but if I have the courage to ‘gird up my loins’ and enter the desert with the Lord then He can help me to grow closer to him in the mystery of his death and resurrection.

What we actually choose to do in Lent is a secondary matter – we may give things up, take things on, read a spiritual book, attend a Lent course etc etc. You will find suggestions for what we might do elsewhere in this magazine. What really matters is that we make that effort to enter the desert to be with Our Lord and so be made ready to be with him in his passion and to share the joy of the Resurrection, a truly life changing experience.

Fr. John

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