“It is therefore right, in a very basic sense, that we should hear the texts of the Easter Vigil from the lips of women. It is they who are called to speak of the Resurrection. The passion story we heard on Good Friday is only about the works and deeds of men, & it is a gruesome & bloody story. But from of old it is women who are the protectors of life. They had to watch the fire when the men went out to the hunt or to war. They warmed it in their hands & sheltered it against the wind. In their maturing, they embodied the earth itself, & in the periodic monthly rhythms of their own bodies, they imaged the mystery of the moon. Theirs from of old is the power to create life, & no one could solve the mystery of its beginning. Women are called to read the message of the resurrection, for in their whole essence they are closer to it than men. Only a few women remained under the cross, because they had no other choice. Mary, the woman from Magdala, had seven evil spirits beset & pursue her before she met the Lord. Only then did her life take on a human shape as she regained her inner coherence, her true self. The women who went to the grave on Easter morning did so with the feeling that this dead man was more alive than all of them; the executioners, the murderers, the survivors throughout the land. But they could not live that way. The tomb is a nowhere land, the home of homelessness.” (The Open Tomb; Eugene Drewermann)
As I prepare these words & prayers of Easter greeting at lunchtime on Maundy Thursday, as our Triduum journey towards the empty tomb begins, on behalf of Fr Abbot (who is tragically still away from us) Prior Gabriel & our Community, I would like to wish you all a very happy Easter & Easter season, as you now discover the Risen Christ in person, in family, locality & Parish. I am often asked by young people “have you ever seen God?” & my challenge then & to you now is “how often, so far today, have you seen the Risen Christ?” I hope you enjoy every moment of the counting. On behalf of us all could I please thank those of you who have contributed in the various ministries of service for the Parish during Holy Week. The generosity, devotion & reverence of our liturgies is always profound, & the invitation this year to the washing of hands, rather than feet, for each & every disciple in church on Maundy Thursday evening, expresses our humility & gratitude for all that each & every one of you do for us within the Parish family & beyond, practically & prayerfully.
Our Holy Week celebrations up to the Triduum included our Village Service at Byland Abbey on Palm Sunday afternoon, when over 50 people came in an icy wind to pray at 3 particular “Stations” within the Monastic buildings. At the Chapter House, where the monks would have gathered each morning to listen to a chapter of the Rule, we heard the advice on how to live Lent within Community. Rev Catherine Reid led us in a short reflection at each Station. We moved on to the Refectory, the monk’s dining room, where we heard of the amount & the distribution of food for each monk. Our last Station centred on the Monastery Infirmary, where St Benedict makes it clear that the care of the sick & infirm should be an absolute priority.
At our Wednesday morning Mass we welcomed 45 Year 11 students & staff from St Bede’s/St Joseph’s College Bradford who came to the Abbey & College for 3 days extra study in their Easter break to prepare for their upcoming GCSE exams. It was fitting they came to Mass with us on Spy Wednesday, when we are reminded of the betrayal by Judas. They were well aware that, the previous weekend, Tiger Woods had won the US Masters Golf, after a number of years of personal & family crisis which had left him 1200th in the world rankings. It has been described as the “greatest comeback of all time”. I was able to trump that assertion by reminding them that the greatest comeback of all time was Judas, a journey we surely have begun, particularly now we have had our innocence restored through Our Lord’s sacrificial Death & Resurrection.
This coming Tuesday, Hannah James & Ashley Boyle are to be married at St Thomas of Canterbury Church, Longhorsley in Morpeth by Hannah’s grandfather, Fr Ian Hoskins. Ashley is the resident custodian at Stanbrook Abbey & Hannah teaches at Easingwold School. They are very much part of our Parish family, & I hope we will have an early opportunity to congratulate them after a forthcoming Sunday Mass, where they regularly attend. With my love & prayers, Fr Bede.