Who doesn’t like Easter with its annual promise of new life? After what we’ve all been through (and continue to suffer with) it’s a most welcome message.
But do you still believe? On this topic the older I get the more fence-sitting I do.
I never really got faith as a youngster but now I understand that put simply it is belief without proof. It’s a feeling which, as I finally qualify for my state pension, seems for me to be evaporating. Perhaps that’s because I don’t sing in church anymore (memo to self, join a choir).
As a chorister I loved singing the hymns, psalms, anthems and carols this time of year brings. We tend to think of the latter as a Christmas thing, but musicians perform them throughout the Christian calendar including during Advent and Epiphany.
The first line of my favourite Easter carol remains “This Joyful Easter-tide, away with sin and sorrow”. I couldn’t agree more. Its bouncy melody is a Dutch tune written in Amsterdam in 1624 and published under the title “Vruechten” by Dirk Rafaelsz Camphuysen, who probably spent a good deal of his time correcting those who couldn’t spell his name.
In 1894 George Woodward put English words to it then the great Irish composer Charles Wood harmonised “This Joyful Easter-tide” – and the rest is history. Their version became so popular it remains unaltered to this day and can still be found in Carols For Choirs, the much loved go-to music book for any UK chorister. My much thumbed 1st edition green copy of Carols For Choirs published in 1961 remains one of my most cherished possessions.
Thankfully the Easter message of Christ dying nailed to a cross for us on Good Friday and then being resurrected three days later to prove to believers that death was not the end, remains far more powerful and long lasting than any commercialisation of it ever will.
Christ died because the Romans considered him a minor troublemaker. But his death created a new religion which still survives 2000 years after the fall of the Roman Empire and is the reason we celebrate Easter, religious or not.
Let’s also remember that the coming of Spring has been a time for joyous celebration since Pagan times. There’s no requirement to be religious to appreciate bird-song, blossoms and the beauty of Nature as your garden comes back to life.
But as ever with humanity, we find a way to put a fly in the ointment.
It’s always been a bone of contention with me that commercial outfits attach themselves to any and all passing seasonal opportunities they hope will keep their tills beeping.
Mothers, fathers, lovers, saints and anyone else who has a “Day” are considered fair game and those not of a religious persuasion will find themselves in their cross-hairs too.
Right now this includes the desperate marketing of chocolate bunnies, Easter eggs, hot cross buns, legs of lamb, eating out, holidays and spending money generally when according to Martin Lewis parts of the UK are close to civil unrest due to the unprecedented rise in the cost of living.
Over the next few days every religious leader from the local vicar to the Archbishop will be writing and reading their Easter sermons. Although the message of new life bringing new hope will remain the same, there’ll be much ecumenical head-scratching going on in order to convince their congregations that in such difficult times their faith will be rewarded and the good times will return.
It’s a big ask for sure, but as D-Ream sang in 1994 “Things can only get better”. I suspect Professor Brian Cox who played keyboards in the band at the time would agree and would doubtless recommend we look at the bigger picture.
Let’s get things in perspective. The Earth was born 4.5 billion years ago. As interstellar things go it’s a drop in the ocean.
Homo Erectus (that’s you and occasionally me) has been on the planet for about 300,000 years. Divide 300,000 into four and half billion and you get er, not much.
Despite what warlords do and how we act, the reality is nature takes its course and our planet will continue despite us. If you’ve ever watched grass recover after being trampled or been amazed at a Christmas amaryllis blooming again in summer, you’ll know anything is possible in nature.
Religion is our way of dealing with the unknown. It develops due to cultural differences but began by us all looking up at the stars. Every cloudless night there they are twinkling away, ever constant. As our technology improves we are able to look into our universe and back in time. I can’t wait to see the latest images from the new James Webb space telescope which was launched on Christmas day.
Some scientists think there’s no reason other universes should have the same laws of physics as ours as some might have stronger gravity or even a different speed of light. Did God do that too?
I’ve learned to trust my first feelings. The one you get straight away when presented with a choice. My thinking is some being did this. But of course immediately someone else will say who created them? Theologians are still arguing that one.
In a doppleganger dimension there may be another you wondering if you exist. Across boundaries of geography, space, time and even dimensions could we send them a friendly message in a bottle? No harm in trying.
I’ve been a pen pal, a broadcaster and a communicator all my life and I can tell you this. If you send a message out, there is a chance you’ll get a response. Ever the optimist.
So, whether you’re chancing the jams and queues for that much needed break away or staying home to save the pennies and finally paint that damned fence, my message to you is I hope you have a happy and peaceful Easter.
God knows we deserve it.