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Easter Gardens
(An Easter Reflection)

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Easter Gardens 

Swinburne captures the delight we all feel at this time of the year when the world is waking up again and beginning to clothe itself in its finest garments. He writes, 

For winter's rains and ruins are over,
And all the seasons of snow and sins, . . .
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

And the thrill of that burgeoning life is nowhere more delicious than in a well-tended garden, a garden like our St Cuthbert's Church garden, which is so beautifully cared for by Anne Reid. We are all so very grateful to Anne for the joy and hope she brings to our lives  

Gardens truly are wonderful things, and none more wonderful than the garden Mary was in on the first Easter morning. You remember how she had crept through the grey streets of Jerusalem as the last glimmer of starlight was leaving the sky. Grief had whitened her face and tightened all her tears. She was on her way to reverence and perhaps anoint the body, of Jesus, but who would roll away the stone which held him down and barred her entrance to the tomb? Through the simmering muslins of the morning mist, at that doubtful moment between the dark and the daylight, she sees the massive mouth of the tomb, open, with no great stone before it. She strains her eyes. She speeds her steps. She looks wildly round. Without looking any further, she concludes that the body of the Lord is no longer in the tomb, and that his enemies have stolen it.  

The story is told in all its moving detail in St John 20. Sunk in her grief, lingering and weeping by the empty tomb, she becomes aware of someone standing not far off. He asks, 'Why are you weeping?' But he knows the real answer, so he adds words which show his understanding, 'Who are you looking for?' Thinking he is the gardener she says, 'If it is you, sir, who have removed him, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.' Jesus replies, 'Mary!' And she turns and says, 'Rabbuni!' The well-remembered, much-loved voice, had pierced her grief, and carried her name home to her heart. The dawn blossoms in her heart like a white tremendous daybreak; a sudden breeze blows across her face, sweeping despair and doubt clean from her heart, and makes her spirit dance with deep delight. 

What really happened that first Easter morning? No one really knows, for no one saw it happen: there were no eye-witnesses to the resurrection. As Alice Meynell says, It was all 

hushed within the dead of night,
The shuttered dark, the secrecy.
And all alone, alone, alone,
He rose again behind the stone.

Does it matter that we don't know the how of Easter? Or is the vital thing to be found in Mary's story, the authentic, life-transforming Easter? Her Easter is your Easter and mine. For we too, like Mary, pass through devastating experiences of darkness and gloom, of grief and bitter loss, of piteous fears and hopes undone, of purposeless days and threadbare nights, the dust and ashes in our mouths, and the dirge in our hearts.  

And then, a footfall echoes in the memory, a voice sounds in the silence, a light shines in the darkness. And suddenly, Easter in our heart sends up the sun, for somehow we know we are in touch with the love of God in Christ, and all is not lost, and hope is not dead.  

Easter is not a matter of proving the resurrection. It is not a process of certifying that there was a body, which was laid in a tomb which was sealed by a stone, and which later was found open and empty, with no sign of a break-in and no trace of the body. These things are all important in their own way, but they do not make Easter. 

Easter happens when we meet the risen Christ, as Mary did in the garden. We can meet him anywhere. He comes gently, quietly, unhurriedly, not compelling us to belief, not rushing us into decision. He comes like an arising sun, and the world flushes rosy in the growing light of day, till, as Christina Rossetti says, Hope laughs, and Faith rests, and Love remembers mirth. 

Rev Charles Robertson, March 2008


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