The Passion whispered loud
8 April 2012
In his Easter message to the diocese, The Bishop of Guildford drew parallels between a war novel, and the Passion story:
"As I write this Easter Message I have just finished reading an extraordinarily powerful novel called ‘A Whispered Name’ by William Brodrick," said Bishop Christopher.
"It is set between the present day and the trenches of the first world war. An Irish Private from the far west is shot by the British Army for desertion, but he had actually returned to the front lines rather than run away. He gave up his life in substitution for a genuine deserter, who is himself eventually transformed by the sacrifice made by the other. And so are other people also connected in this inter-woven story.
"The book is not a conscious allegory of the Passion story. But it shows just how powerful such a vicarious sacrifice is for good. The soldier’s death ‘had meaning’ – it was ultimately redemptive.
"In Romans, St Paul writes that rarely will a man die, even for a good person, even if this does occasionally happen. But God proves his love for us, in that Christ died for us while we were sinners. The novel – with its carefully researched and sometimes harrowing background as to the reality of the western front in 1916 – can be read as a commentary on the power of good, of new life, released in to a network of people by just such a sacrifice.
"The Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ are this writ large on a cosmic and universal scale. A blessed and life-giving celebration of Holy Week and Easter to all.”
Archbishop's final Easter Sermon
Meanwhile, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams used his final Easter sermon in the role to say that the ultimate test of the Christian religion was not whether it is useful, beneficial or helpful to the human race but whether or not its central claim – the resurrection of Jesus Christ – actually happened. Delivering his Easter morning sermon at Canterbury Cathedral, Dr Williams said that no other understanding of Easter morning made any sense:
"Easter makes a claim not just about a potentially illuminating set of human activities but about an event in history and its relation to the action of God. Very simply, in the words of this morning’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that ‘God raised Jesus to life."
Dr Williams said that any understanding of the significance of the resurrection which fell short of this truth would be to misunderstand it:
"We are not told that Jesus ‘survived death’; we are not told that the story of the empty tomb is a beautiful imaginative creation that offers inspiration to all sorts of people; we are not told that the message of Jesus lives on. We are told that God did something – that is, that this bit of the human record, the things that Peter and John and Mary Magdalene witnessed on Easter morning, is a moment when ... we see through to the ultimate energy behind and within all things. When the universe began, prompted by the will and act of God and maintained in being at every moment by the same will and action, God made it to be a universe in which on a particular Sunday morning in AD33 this will and action would come through the fabric of things and open up an unprecedented possibility – for Jesus and for all of us with him: the possibility of a human life together in which the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit makes possible a degree of reconciled love between us that could not have been imagined ... for the Christian, the basic fact is that this compelling vision is there only because God raised Jesus"
The Archbishop also said that hostility towards faith and religion in public life might recently have become tempered with an appreciation of the part that religion plays in shaping and sustaining human existence, he says, and this is to be welcomed:
"there is plenty to suggest that younger people, while still statistically deeply unlikely to be churchgoers, don’t have the hostility to faith that one might expect, but at least share some ... sense that there is something here to take seriously – when they have a chance to learn about it. It is about the worst possible moment to downgrade the status and professional excellence of religious education in secondary schools – but that’s another sermon…"
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