Some years ago my wife Olive and I led a holiday group to Corfu at Eastertime. The local people there certainly knew how to celebrate. The week before Easter was packed with events, especially on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
But the highlight for me came late on the Saturday evening – the night before Easter Day itself.
A huge crowd assembled very late in a large park all gathered around a bandstand. It was just before midnight and we were in almost complete darkness.
But as it turned midnight and Easter Day dawned, the local bishop, who stood in the bandstand, lit a single candle.
From that one candle hundreds of other candles were lit. The light was passed from one to another, moving out and out in an ever-growing circle – until the whole vast area moved from profound darkness to a sea of light.
During this whole time there was a breathless hush – except for one thing. As the bishop passed the first light to others, he said the following words:
Alleluia! Christ is risen
and the reply came from the one receiving the light:
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
These words were repeated again and again, and again – many hundreds of times.
It was a dramatic enactment of the good news of Easter: simple but profoundly moving. It’s a moment that I will never forget.
This Easter is a time when we probably need good news more than ever.
For me, it will be the first Easter since I was 14 that I will not celebrate in Church. Back then, in 1955, I had to spend almost a whole year in hospital following a serious operation. It was a tough time for me personally.
But Easter 2020 is a time when the whole world faces immense challenges because of the global impact of the Covid-19 virus.
My wife, Olive and I are now almost 80 – we are no spring-chickens! So we have to be careful and do exactly what the health experts advise.
We are used to our freedom so dislike having to stay in so much, not greet friends and neighbours as we normally would, miss church and social events and not see our family.
Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York, wrote this recently:
‘There is nothing good about this virus. But that does not mean good cannot come out of it’
This rings true to my experience.
Amidst the strange disjointedness of life, we have also experienced some wonderful things in recent weeks:
- Several young families in our village are kindly doing our shopping for us
- We are able to go out for a walk each day (I’m on my mobility scooter) and we meet lots of people walking in ones and twos who express a lovely mix of friendliness and concern
- We are seeing many families out together and its especially striking to see so many dads out with their children. Many of the children know my wife as she leads school assemblies locally and many shout out a cheerful ‘Hello Olive!” which is great
- Our local “Fish Scheme” which takes older people to medical appointments all the year round is in overdrive delivering medications from the pharmacy
- The Church building may be closed– but services are now on-line – even with activities for children
- We also have a prayer chain which carries special requests for prayer 24/7 is extended now with special provision for anyone who is lonely and anxious
- And we are getting lots of phone calls and facetime with our sons and grandchildren which we love
I believe there is a strong connection between that memorable moment in Corfu with what I am experiencing this Easter where we live.
And it’s called hope.
Easter is a time of hope which is mirrored in the new life springing up around us in nature. The explosion of hope that was released that first Easter Day when Jesus was resurrected changed the world forever. It still has power today. The light is still shining in the darkness.
And like that vast crowd in Corfu, we can share this light both in our words and our actions. When we look out for our neighbours, when we help others overcome their anxiety, when we share love and care, we are putting hope into action.
It is my prayer that many this Easter, from their own home, will find out more about the source of this hope.
Our world is in great pain and for many it is a very dark time. There is nothing good about this virus.
But good can come from it because light is shining in the darkness.
Gordon Kuhrt lives in Haddenham in Buckinghamshire, UK