Last week I invited you to pray the Litany of Reconciliation offered daily within the ruins of the medieval cathedral in Coventry. Lying completely open to the sky, the ruins are a powerful sign of an openness to the will of God “to hold heaven and earth in a single peace”. As you leave the ruins making your way down a set of steps, you see a massive window that fills the entire “west” end of the new cathedral, consecrated in 1962. It is clear glass but etched into it from top to bottom are angels and saints dancing before the Lord. Through that magnificent work, one’s eye is then drawn to the great tapestry of Christ in Glory. The work of artist Graham Sutherland, the tapestry is seventy-two feet in height. It fills the entire “east” end of the cathedral. Christ is seated.
“The highest place that heaven affords is his,
is his by right,
the King of kings and Lord of lords,
and heaven’s eternal light.”
(Hymn 491, Common Praise)
His feet bear the wounds of crucifixion. His hands are raised in a gesture of lifting the life of the world heavenward. He is “the ever Eastering Christ”, ever rising to make all things new.
By water and word he makes of us an Easter People united with him in his death and resurrection. Through bread and wine he nourishes us with his very self. He sends us into the world to live his risen life, to defy every evil course of action bent on the destruction and death of the children of God and our common home, the earth itself.
Here we see that along with the deep personal yearning as St Paul puts it “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection”, there is a cosmic dimension to the Resurrection – one in which the old order of sin and death is overcome and the new order of redemption and fullness of life for all is proclaimed.
From the moment my eyes were drawn to that great tapestry, to walking toward and taking my place beneath it, and then stepping back and gazing at it from afar, I thought of the words of a lovely modern Easter hymn written by Brian Wren.
“Christ is risen! Shout Hosanna!
Celebrate this day of days!
Christ is risen! Hush in wonder:
All creation is amazed.
In the desert all-surrounding,
See, a spreading tree has grown.
Healing leaves of grace abounding
Bring a taste of love unknown.
Christ is risen! Raise your spirits
From the caverns of despair.
Walk with gladness in the morning.
See what love can do and dare.
Drink the wine of resurrection,
Not a servant, but a friend.
Jesus is our strong companion.
Joy and peace shall never end.
Christ is risen! Earth and heaven
Nevermore shall be the same.
Break the bread of new creation
Where the world is still in pain.
Tell its grim, demonic chorus:
Christ is risen! Get you gone!
God the First and Last is with us,
Sing Hosanna, everyone!”
(Hymn 223, Common Praise)
Let this be our song not for one day, but all fifty of the Great Festival of Easter.