Monday 6 April 2015

Easter Message

Dear Brethren,

When I wrote at the beginning of Lent, we were at the time when Our Lord, through His Church, challenges us, through prayer and penance, to see more clearly the most basic and most important aspects of our human lives: the love of God and love of neighbour - the response to which leads either towards or away from eternal bliss with Him.  Now that we have come to the end of Lent, let us reflect on how we did. Did I persevere with my promises? Did I ask for God’s grace when I failed? Did I give up completely and le the effort lapse?

I have been re-reading Pope Benedict XVI’s homily at the Easter Vigil from 2012. He reminds us that:
 “Easter is the feast of the new creation.
Jesus is risen and dies no more.
He has opened the door to a new life.” 
It is precisely because we have experience of failure, of conflict with one another, of sin, of death, that the resurrection of the Lord calls to us so powerfully.  Easter makes us realise that the new life we long for - in our faith, in our work and vocation, in our relationships - can only come by uniting ourselves to the Lord.  The suffering Lord who carries His cross and the triumphant Lord who brings new life.

Again, from Pope Benedict: 
“Easter Day ushers in a new creation, but that is precisely why the Church starts the liturgy of the Easter Vigil with the old creation, so that we can learn to understand the new one aright.”
We can only appreciate the light of the new life when we realise the darkness of the old.  The journey we must all make if we are to be faithful Christians.

As part of our journey, our vocation is as sons and daughters of St Lazarus - the first exemplar of the resurrection in the ministry of Jesus. To fight for the Christian Faith we must aim to recreate our sorry world in the image of the New Jerusalem - beginning, as always, with ourselves. This is not to say that our human flesh is evil or that the world is evil. Pope Benedict proclaimed: 
“Matter is fundamentally good, being itself is good. And evil does not come from God… rather, it comes into existence through denial. It is a "no".
Through our companionship with one another and through our work in the Order of St Lazarus we want to say “Yes” to the Lord. “Yes” to the Faith. “Yes” to recreating with Our Lord, the new life he promises for those who will believe in Him.  By the strength which comes from His grace we fight the good fight to protect the Faith that frees each person from the tyranny of the Fall; we do it by relying on our Great Tradition - ultimately, that which Our Lord first handed on to the Apostles. 

To take but one example, our work with SUROL assisting those affected by leprosy, helps people to recreate their broken lives and begin to make them into something whole again. We may justly rejoice that we have raised £56,000 in the few short years since we began supporting their work. It is our way of taking up arms and showing the world how to battle the forces that afflict our lives.

Our work - and sometimes our struggles - within the Order remind us the need for self-sacrifice.  We defend and encourage the growth of the Faith by fighting for it and by keeping ourselves rooted in what the Lord has handed on to us: Atavis et Armis. That challenge is something else Pope Benedict proclaimed in that Easter Homily:
“On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle."
This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great light.
We should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth.
Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible.
Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves.Let us pray to the Lord at this time that he may grant us to experience the joy of his light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world. Amen.”
May the Risen Lord bless you and yours in this Eastertide.

Fr Simon Henry.

Chaplain General. Great Britain.