Sunday 1 May 2016

EASTER 6 Year C

(1) Acts 16:9-15    (2) Rev 21:10, 22-22:5    (3) John 14:23-29 

Once I was lucky enough to be in an Orthodox country at Easter time. At Divine Liturgy, it’s striking the way the Priest keeps coming out from behind the Iconostasis and chanting Kristos Voskresnye. Each time it seemed like the first time. Something really had happened, then and there. “The Lord is Risen”.

In our own liturgy, the President may say "In the name of the Father" then "The Lord be with you" or "Grace, mercy and peace". "The Lord is risen" is a third additional greeting, followed by words of welcome or introduction -  a little sermon in itself.

How are we to recapture the excitement of the Resurrection? When the sorrowing disciples first realised “He’s back”?

One way is to step forward to what happened to Paul. He was that Pharisee of Pharisees, the prime, most violent representative of those who hated Jesus and his followers more than anyone else. He didn’t actually throw stones at Stephen, he was too important for that but suddenly, in a stroke of lightening, the Lord himself convinced Paul and it all fell into place. For it was the Pharisees, for all that they have become a sort of by-word, who had all the time been longing not only for the Messiah but for the Resurrection. Yes, the Lord is Risen, he is risen indeed.

The Lord himself chose Paul, in the most direct and violent form possible, who was ideally, uniquely qualified. Highly educated in Judaism, yet a Roman citizen, speaking, reading not only Hebrew but Greek, he could travel wherever he liked, speak convincingly to everyone in that vast Greco Roman world created by Alexander, ruled by Caesar.

He knew where to begin. Arriving in Philippi, a Roman city where edifices to foreign deities were forbidden as they were in Rome itself, he knew where to find those keeping the Sabbath together, down by the river where there was running water for their necessary ritual baths.

There Paul found them praying. Baptism is a natural development of ritual baths. Not for nothing springs everywhere are natural holy places. Down by the river, it wasn’t megaphone evangelism but gossiping the Gospel, in Loveday Alexander’s telling phrase.

The reading appointed from Revelation recalls Ezekiel’s vision of the heavenly perfect temple, square as no Mediterranean city ever was, with twelve foundations equalling the twelve precious stones on the breast plate of the High Priest –The Temple vision of perfection in Judaism, as is the Church’s vision of Christian perfection, the House of God Himself.

John is always bringing out the distinction between this Church and the world. For the present world, though loved and claimed by the Father, seems still, sadly, under the rule of the dark lord, wounded though he is by the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s complete redemption waits till the Last Day.

May that day come quickly. Amen.

        Antony Grant CR