Easter 2020: a note for the parishes of Central Exeter

I’ve been a priest now for nearly sixty years, and during the whole of that time this is the strangest Easter I’ve known. I’m told it’s the church’s job to give hope, and no doubt it is. But hope for what? For a return to that “normalcy” whose apparent security is always an illusion? [1]

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,

For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. [2]

T. S. Eliot wrote those words in 1940, a year in which Great Britain was subject to an aerial bombardment that left people with very few certainties—not the certainty that the houses they lived in would be standing tomorrow, nor even the certainty that they themselves would still be alive. As that uncertainty loomed, King George VI in his Christmas broadcast to the nation quoted a poem that had been shown him by his thirteen-year old daughter Princess Elizabeth:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand in the Hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.

And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East. [2`]

The darkness in which we find ourselves, the darkness of Holy Week and the darkness of pandemic, are real. Let us not deceive ourselves about that. But darkness has never overcome the light and darkness and death do not have the last word. All around us there are signs of Spring, shoots of green, birds building nests. And the Easter salutation does not change:

Hallelujah! Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!

The last word is and forever will be Christ’s and it is a word of grace:

Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

1  One might add: shall we continue criminally to underfund the National Health Service, that same NHS whom we now call our heroes, even as they place their lives on the line for us—and in some cases die for us because they do not have enough of the personal protection equipment with which our successive governments of both parties should have seen they were provided?

2 T. S. Eliot, “East Coker” in Four Quartets.

3 Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957)God Knows” in The Desert (1908).


Christopher Bryan