From my Parish Bulletin, Easter 2012
(I will intersperse my sermon postings with these shorter reflections from now on)
‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God’ wrote G.M. Hopkins in his “God’s Grandeur” (adding ‘Why do men then now not reck his rod?’). I remember some 24 hours after my coming to faith (33 years ago, now) hitchhiking home, electrified by the sense of God’s presence in nature around me. Thanks be to God I have never lost that sense that I had that afternoon, as autumn leaves fell and horses munched languidly in paddocks adjacent to where I stood, thumb out, entering a new highway.
Which is not to say I feel that electrification of the Creator every moment of every day. I’d be exhausted, a wreck, an idiot of jibberation and malfunction. Human life cannot sustain superheated emotion for too long. But I have never lost access to the sense that I had, as I watched the horses and the autumn leaves, the sense ‘I know the creator of all this magnificence’.
I have recaptured—always as a gracing, never as a result of my own attempts—that sense many times since. I have experienced it in nature: sitting under a night sky somewhere south-west of Bourke, or in the dawn chorus of Birdsville, or on the hill above Byron, or at sunrise in the middle of the Nullabor. I have experienced it in liturgy—with Br. Ghislain at a Taizé Evening Prayer watching the sun set at Cottesloe Beach, or as a cantor chanted Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Or the first time I experienced the liturgy of the Lighting of the New Fire, gathered in the dark outside the small suburban church of St George, Flemington, where my gloriously mad vicar, Fr. Alan Lewis, intoned the exsultet and named all time as God’s time.
Easter by Easter I have never lost the awe and the mystery of that first Flemington morning. It was probably my fifth Easter as a believer, but the first in which I was gobsmacked by the power of the sacred to pierce the mundane, the power of liturgy to transcend normality. As Melbourne woke up around us we greeted the risen Lord.
Do not then be surprised if I am short-tempered with those clergy and theologians who do away with the Resurrection.
Do not be surprised that St Paul became my favourite theologian: it was Paul who wrote those resounding words ‘If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied’. Without the Resurrection we have nothing to say to the world, and I for one would have better things to do each Sunday. But 33 years ago I was seized by resurrection hope, and it will not let me go.
έ̉ν Χριστω̣̃ – (Fr) Michael