Christ’s spirit burns within us
Today I celebrated my Easter Mass at home in my little chapel, the Chapel of St Francis and the Angels.
I was very conscious of Yeats’ poem, Easter 1916, in which the poet speaks of a “terrible beauty” being born. It occurred to me that that “beauty” was both me and you. And so, having no congregation to give my homily of blessing, like St Francis I preached to birds at the fountain side. This is what I said:
‘Christ is risen. Being alive. Life. Life has swallowed death. The Lent that marked our rough journey through life on what at times has been a knife edge, with all its dark experiences, stale conventions and arid conditionings demanded by those with power over us, has gone.
With life we are affirmed as the persons we really are, free from the masks we habitually wear and the demons which hold us back and pull us down, the wild beasts which do their work ravaging everything that’s good and true and beautiful in us.
We’ve all had our own unique experiences. Some married. Some didn’t. Some got divorced. Some didn’t. Some have suffered life threatening illness. Some haven’t. Some have lost jobs at critical times. Some haven’t. Some are broken hearted. Some aren’t.
Experience tells us that in all the blessings and woes of life it really doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, just or unjust, god fearing or indifferent. The same sun warms our bodies and the same rain falls upon us all.
Someone whom we deeply love betrays us. We learn what forgiveness is. Someone gives us a hard knock. We learn what mercy is. Years on we realise just how much our mothers meant to us, how selfless they were, how unconditionally they loved us.
And so we learn what love is, what self-giving is, what God’s love is. We learn how the wild beasts can be tamed to serve us.
But to learn all that we have to be kind to ourselves and to watch and listen from outside of ourselves – to watch all our antics, our grumbling, and to listen to the mutter-chatter which ceaselessly goes on between our ears, all the negative noise.
In doing that we might just learn to centre ourselves in the present which is really all that matters. And in that maybe we’ll learn to laugh at ourselves, wearing as we do all our self-importance, our fussiness, our posturing like medals at our breast. If we can come to laugh at ourselves, maybe we’ll begin to see ourselves as we truly are and so begin to accept ourselves, which is a sign of grace. You know, we really are much more than we shall ever know or believe ourselves to be.
Of course, there will be times when the thorns and nails which sear our lives will sink into us. Yes, there will be slaps and lashes. At times it will feel as if life is being strangled from us – for we too are the body of Christ.
Yet for us too the flame of hope still burns; of course it does. It’s the Christ light and can never be extinguished. It ensures we’re never overcome unless we wish it. For that light, you see, is the spirit of man, and it burns no matter the storms and clouds and darknesses – and so ever burns for you and for me.
Yes. Christ has risen, and us with him. They thought they’d destroyed him as some think they’ve destroyed us. Yet here he is still dancing with us in all our newness of life. Isn’t it wonderful? And he’ll keep dancing and keep popping up no matter the time and place.
The Christ spirit, which is in all our hearts, really is stronger than death. It’s overcome death. It’s like the end of a sordid love affair.
Today, everything which separates and injures and destroys has been overcome by all that unites and heals and creates. In losing our lives, dying to what we’ve so far been, we’ve been raised up with Christ.
So yes, go on. Be yourself, your true self, and be true to yourself here, now, with the risen Christ –and may it ever be so for us.’
At the end the birds were still there but I can’t pretend it wasn’t the bread they saw in my hands.
– FATHER CLIFFORD HALL