Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid’
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St Benedict thought that ‘life should be a continuous Lent’. As we come to the end of it, we might think we have heard enough about Lent or we might just be beginning to understand what it is about. Anyway, it is one of the weft and warp strands that needs to be woven into the spiritual fabric of life. It reminds us of key values, like discipline, moderation and wakefulness; and, as a fixed transition period, a bridge between seasons, it is a part that reminds us of the ever-changing life of the whole.
Yesterday at Bonnevaux we venerated the Cross. We were outdoors, drenched in warm sunshine, a multi-national, intergenerational group joined just before we began by three pilgrims from Colombia. We were diverse, as were the crowds surging into Jerusalem for the Festival when a certain, insignificant crucifixion took place.
There is always a huge spaciousness after the Good Friday veneration. It yawns even more largely today as Jesus ‘descends into hell’, diving into the darkest most repressed depths and liberating those parts of us still held in the chains of fear and violence. His arrival shakes everything that blocks or distorts the human from flourishing in our Godlikeness. When he breaks surface again he appears to those who can recognise him. His first and repeated word is not to fear. When in the future, we may wake up in some of those dark places, perhaps facing our mortality or unearthing a buried loss, we will feel that he has already paid a visit there and with that awareness our fear will recede.
We keep more silence on our retreat here after the Veneration and through tomorrow until the Vigil. The spaciousness created by the sacred theatre is palpable. Yes, it is an emptiness but it’s not a nothingness. What is emptiness full of in nature, except potential? Eggs may have become specially associated with Easter because of being symbols of new life, fertility and regeneration in Springtime. Even their shape was seen as a symbol of infinity and in some creation myths the cosmos began as an egg breaking open. As a chick emerges through the shell so Jesus comes out of the tomb. Easter egg-hunts are fun and symbolise our search for the origin of life. Some computer games hide an ‘easter egg’ in their code, waiting to be discovered by someone who is truly seeking for it.
What is Holy Saturday, then? The day after? A wasteland? A battlefield after the fighting? Or is it more? An emptiness crackling with potent energy, the faintly growing hope born from the disaster of the Cross, the instinct of the scattered disciples to find each other, the feeling of something about to crack open, something lost about to be found. Is it just one thing or an awakening of countless dimensions and planes of reality? The individual who died returns as a cosmic person, the Purusha, the Cosmic Christ, dissolving fear by cleansing the doors of perception. So that we can see everything as it is, infinite.