The material today can be read and reflected on, or there is the option of listening to the material (Click here).
The four reflections I have offered to date have arisen in large part from thinking about the impact of Covid-19 upon our lives and how we can draw on our faith to navigate what is a profoundly challenging road.
And now here we are, in the midst of lockdown, at Easter Sunday. On this day above all others in our liturgical calendar, the dawn breaks with brilliant light no matter how dark the night or days before not because things have changed but because the tomb was found empty. Over all the earth, if we were to listen carefully, we would hear the Hallelujahs of creation in every chirping and singing bird. Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!
And yet the truth is also that things have not overtly changed. Covid-19 continues to envelop our days and for some, worse than that, this Easter is shrouded by the reality of loss and sorrow. Loss caused perhaps by Covid-19 but perhaps, of course, also by something else.
Dying is a fact of life; Covid-19 has not brought anything new in that regard. Like other illnesses can do, it can break into our lives. It has no manners or courtesy. It does not knock at the door or introduce itself in a way that would enable us to recognise it and keep it beyond the threshold. Instead, it is an intruder and those who develop Covid-19 discover that it took up residence a couple of weeks earlier and, although uninvited, has since made itself thoroughly at home. How rude.
But even now, even as this threat continues to hang over us, another unexpected guest can arrive: JOY.
However, it does not break in; it breaks out.
It breaks out of the darkness of the tomb and it does not come to take but to give. The invitations in its hands are to know ourselves beloved not just as we could be but even as we are; to life in abundance not at some other time but now; to an experience of true freedom even as we may know practical constraint; to hope even as the world would suggest despair; to the overflowing riches of grace even as we know ourselves empty-handed and poor.
At Easter, we remember and celebrate that JOY broke out and over the world and dwells with us and amongst us. JOY which can occur in the midst of pain and struggle because it is not a feeling grounded in the circumstances of the world or our lives but in the ever consoling truth of the presence of God.
May JOY bless you this Easter and be the gift of these reflections.
As we begin, make sure you are sitting comfortably. Back straight and supported by the chair, feet planted on the ground – adjust your posture such that it helps you to be relaxed but alert.
The invitation is to focus on your breathing. Draw your breath in deeply. Feel your lungs expanding as you do then hold that breath for a moment before you exhale.
Again, exhale deeply. Press the air fully out and linger for just a moment before you breathe in again.
Continue to breathe in this way. Breathing deeply in and holding the breath for a moment, breathing deeply out and waiting for a moment before breathing in again.
What you are doing as you slow your breathing in this way is accentuating the points of transition between the breath in and the breath out; points of transition which involve, therefore, imperceptible gaps between the movements of in and out, and out and in. In these gaps we can think of God dwelling and present in our every breath; present at the top of the breath, present at its lowest point as well. Present. Always present.
Continue to breathe deeply in this way, paying attention to the transitions and reflecting on the gaps. When you have done this 10 or so times begin to breathe normally and simply rest in God’s presence for a further 5 minutes if that is comfortable.
There is no expectation from this time other than to be present to the fact that you are in God’s presence – as always.
I took the photo below just over a week ago up at the Chapel of St Mary’s of the Storms in Cowie. Personally, I find it a powerful image and the invitation is to sit with it and, prayerfully, to contemplate what you see. Take your time. Pay attention to the whole picture. Consider all its details.
What does it reveal for you?
The invitation of this further period of prayer is to contemplate John 20: 11-16; the story of Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene and particularly to hear the joy in her voice as she recognises him.
Just a reminder that to pray a passage contemplatively, you would read it through several times first until its details feel familiar and then you would set the scene with your mind’s eye and enter into it from one of the perspectives experiencing it from that viewpoint. Do not try to analyse what you are experiencing as you pray.
Afterwards, it is helpful to reflect over what you experienced and to capture and journal any thoughts that seemed to stand out with blessing or challenge. You may wish to pray further about these or to come back to those insights at another time in prayer.
I have offered a guided contemplation below but you do not have to follow this.
GUIDED CONTEMPLATION OF JOHN 20: 11- 16
Begin by reading the passage through then decide who you will be in this story as we pray it through.
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
It is early morning. Be aware of the light and the temperature; the stillness and the quiet. Mary is alone. Picture her at the tomb. Experience or consider her visible sorrow.
She looks into the tomb. What was her expectation as she did so?
What is her surprise when presented with two angels in white?
Visualise the angels and the space of the tomb where Jesus should have been lying.
Hear the angels speak. “Woman, why are your crying?”
Mary responds – “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him”. Experience or consider her distress and confusion. Does she understand who she is looking at? Does she recognise these men as angels?
Mary turns and sees a man standing behind her. She does not know who it is. She has angels before her and Jesus behind her. Be present with Mary in this experience. She is surrounded by the goodness of God but does not yet know it.
Jesus, unrecognised though he is, speaks to Mary. He asks her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
We are told Mary thought he was a gardener. Reflect for a moment on why that might be. He has spoken to her but she does not recognise his voice. She does not recognise him to look at either.
Hear Mary replying, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
How would Mary have managed Jesus if she had been told where to get him? How great is her desire? How deep is her longing?
Hear Jesus say, “Mary” …
This is the moment of recognition. This is the moment of JOY. Live it or watch her live it. See or feel it breaking over her as she responds, “Rabboni!”
What is your name?
Hear Jesus say your name today.
What response does it call forth in you?
Take some time to consider what your reflections have revealed for you; how the Holy Spirit may be stirring in you, ministering to you or blessing you.
Bring your response to God in a further time of prayer.