The romance of a cloistered Easter

As the Easter Octave comes to an end, it is with a kind of reflexive surprise that I realise that this is actually what Christianity is supposed to be like all the time. I am supposed to be suffused with the joy of the Resurrection each day because it is not just an event that happened long ago. It is what constitutes my whole identity as a Christian and as a priest.

This “day which the Lord has made” (Psalm 118:24) is the first day of the new creation into which Christ has drawn us by baptising us into the life of his Resurrection and making the dynamic of his Paschal Mystery real in us through its representation under sacramental signs. This is the new life hidden with him in God which St Paul speaks of in his Epistle to the Colossians. The radicality and newness of it can easily be obscured.

Indeed, I can protect myself from the concomitantly radical demand for conversion by reducing faith to a lifestyle accessory which allows me to bask in the glow of remembrance annually and then carry on as before. But unless I am prepared to accept the implications of this offer of new life in Christ, faith in the Resurrection can remain a thing of the imagination, like a sort of spiritual points card which, in return for my being loyal to Him when I choose, God contracts to reward my efforts and give me perks not available to others.

I have been trying to analyse what brought about this awareness and deeper conviction of the newness of life proclaimed by this feast. I think the most obvious cause is that I have been able to live these days of the Triduum and Easter Octave within the purlieu of monastic communities. Now, there is surrounding this a whole romance of beautiful cloisters and deep-toned bells and home-grown vegetables.

But lovely as these are, they are not an end but a means. To be with people who seek to live in the presence of God all the time, who have chosen a life hidden with Christ in God and have grounded themselves in exactly that: this is what allows me to imbibe a rare peace and joy. These Christ-centred communities both provide it and alert me to the logic of why it should feel so invigorating.

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