Easter is my favourite time of year because, whether it comes early or late, it is always a harbinger of Spring. There is even something nice about the sound of the word Easter. And, of course, it celebrates the supreme Christian festival of the Resurrection, the single most important event which altered the course of human history.
The poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), may have had something of this in mind when, in a line in one of his most famous poems (The Wreck of the Deutschland), he wrote: “Let him Easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us”. His use of the word “Easter” as a verb instead of a noun, is instructive and pregnant with meaning.
It reminds us powerfully that Easter is something that happens to us. It is about action, about living, about being transformed. Christ enters and “easters” in us, sharing his risen life with us. It reminds us, too, of St Paul’s famous saying: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me” (Gal 2: 19-20).
Christ eastering within us means we have a new centre and core from which to live. We now live Christ’s life. In this sense Easter is more than a day, an event, a remembrance, but rather a way of life.
And isn’t that what we all desire most: Easter as a verb, as something that transforms our present lives, giving us hope and meaning? Isn’t that what we long for, for him to “Easter” in us? Christians are often called Easter People, people fully alive with that life Jesus came on earth to give us.
Those first followers of Jesus believed that God’s Spirit of love had been poured out on everyone. In fact, they became known for the love they had for everyone, a love that manifested itself in their care for the poor, the weak and marginalised in society. The Acts of the Apostles – that pre-eminent Easter book – describes their non-violent, caring and compassionate lifestyle and shows us how even in our complicated and violent world it is still possible to live such a life.
Down the centuries the Easter message has comforted the poor and oppressed with the hope that they, too, can rise up and be happy. It has motivated millions of quite ordinary people to undertake missionary journeys, to live among the poor, to risk their lives for causes big and small, to devote themselves to contemplation and service. At a more banal level, it has given millions of pilgrims like ourselves the courage to rise at least a little above ourselves and the small but sure hope that encourages us just to keep carrying on.
The entire Easter phenomenon defies rationality and the rules of the world. Our world measures everything in the finite, in the practical, in an earthly bottom line. Jesus had no bottom line but love. No wonder he was a failure by the world’s standards. And yet we keep going back to Him because we want to believe that somewhere in what he said and did lies the key to a life that is meaningful and offers hope. He must have done something right, said something worth listening to. His first followers certainly believed this.
As Easter People, we are challenged to live that same Spirit-filled life as those first followers. We do this in another time, in a different world. In short, we have to do in our world NOW what those first Christians did in their world THEN. So let Him “Easter” in us and “be a dayspring to the dimness of us.”