Janet`s April 2018 letter to the Community

Dear Friends

As I’m writing this we’re in Lent.  As you read it will be, or will be about to be, Easter.

I think that some of the most memorable Easter celebrations I have experienced were when I stayed as a guest with the Anglican Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage.  The liturgy during Holy Week, and particularly on Good Friday, was stark and solemn.  The chapel was bare.  The communion vessels were earthenware and the few candlesticks were plain wood.  There were no flowers anywhere in the building.  The food was adequate but simple.  It was very quiet.  And then, on Easter Day there was joyful liturgy with silver candlesticks and communion vessels.  Lots of light.  White and gold altar hangings.  Flowers everywhere.  Celebration food – and talking at meals, a rarity in that convent life.  It was such an amazing contrast that it really underlined the change in the season, with all the theological truth of the transition to new life that Easter teaches.

And it showed the importance of both self-discipline and feasting.  The Christian life does both.  While Christianity is often labelled as censorious and “life denying”, the truth is that it values both celebration and feasting.  And the celebrating is not short.  While the major festival is Easter Sunday and the week following it, the Easter season lasts for weeks – right up until Pentecost seven weeks later.  The difference between Christian festivals and their observance in our secular world is that we move the celebrating time to the Festival and the period after it.  We make our preparation in the lead-up.  We observe our Lenten discipline.  And then, at the Festival, we feast.

There is self-discipline in this order of things.  It tells us that there are times for self-denial and fasting (in whatever sense we understand it) and there are times for celebration.  Everything has its place and value, but we are not in control of the timetable.  Thus we learn that we are not the centre of the universe; that, however important we are (and we are very important to God), we do not dictate the rhythm of life.  It helps us to be grounded in reality.  And it helps us to value the feasting in all its fullness when we come to it.  I commend it to you.

Wishing you a blessed and joyous Easter – and Eastertide.


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