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An Easter Garden (February 2021)

In 2020 the pace of change and uncertainty has been unprecedented. What seemed to be true or accurate one week got changed or updated the following week. It looks like 2021 will be similarly uncertain and ever changing.

As I write this note, the roll out of the vaccine is underway and many of us are anxiously waiting for a text or letter inviting us for our first inoculation. In the meantime, we need to continue with our care and vigilance, keeping ourselves, our families and friends, and our wider community safe from the virus. We are incredibly grateful for the volunteers and helpers from the church, community hall and the C -19 support group for all their excellent work in helping those in need. Thank you!

One of the many things that has not been possible during the pandemic has been the simple pleasure of going to the cinema and seeing a new film. I did manage to watch a recent film adaptation of Francis Hodgson Burnett’s ‘The Secret Garden’ on the television this Christmas which was, despite great acting and beautiful photography, a bit of a disappointment. It did however remind me of a fantastic book by Nicola Slee called ‘Easter Garden’ in which the lives of Mary Lennox from ‘The Secret Garden’ and Mary Magdalene in the Gospels are woven together, revealing a pathway from despair to encounter and from healing to transformation. In the introduction Nicola describes a moment where she stops by a hedge and looks at the trees growing there, thin and white and wiry, with no green showing. She picks a branch which looks more like a bone or piece of chalk than a living tree and marvels that despite there being no sign of sap or green anywhere in the branch she knew it would sprout green again soon.

February is a pivotal month as we move from winter and finally see the first shoots of green and the miracle of spring yet to come. The Church reflects this movement from darkness to light as we celebrate Candlemas, where the temple prophets Simeon and Anna recognise Jesus as the promised messiah and light of the world. Then on the 17th of February we have Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent as we prepare for Easter which this year is on the 4th of April.

Lent is a time of preparation and purification and it often features fasting or abstinence. In many ways it may feel we have been doing some sort of fasting since the start of the first lock down, or perhaps you are just finishing one of the new secular seasons of fasting: ‘veganuary’ or perhaps ‘dry January’? The intention of Lenten fasting is different in that it is a willing offering or sacrifice that can deepen our awareness and relationship with God. By denying ourselves unnecessary food, luxuries or the things we have dependencies upon (chocolate, alcohol, cigarettes) we are saying “I do not depend on these things”. It enables us to step back from the usual habits and distractions and give attention to God. This is one of the meanings of the ash given on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and is also the prayer which lies at the heart of Lent. Reminding ourselves to give time to God so that the divine may speak to us in the silence of our heart, so that we may know spring again.

With love, Fr Richard

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