Letter from a Member of the Ministry Team. Iffley Parish Magazine, April 2021.
“In my beginning is my end…In my end is my beginning” – these simple, familiar and yet profound phrases from Eliot’s ‘East Coker’, the second of the 4 Quartets, points the way to eternal hope, from life to death and death to life. As we move from the season of Lent to Easter we seek joy in the recurring new life of Spring and how it symbolises Christ’s Resurrection.
One of my lasting memories over the past 43 years is of arriving in the North of England from a very warm Southern California in 1977. It was the first week in November and I was facing perhaps the greyest and most daunting month of an English year. It was foggy and damp, the days were grey and by 3.30pm nearly dark. The Winter months passed slowly. Then, as Spring arrived and Easter, my husband took me for my first drive into the Lake District. And what did I see in abundance? Daffodils – grassy banks covered with them – a yellow aura of opening blossoms that brought joy. And still today the daffodils prevail as Spring approaches. You see them everywhere – in Christ Church Meadow, along verges, in gardens, in supermarket bouquets, in churchyards and on Easter cards and more poignantly at Jesus’ feet in our beautiful East window of Christ’s Resurrection.
Why daffodils as a symbol of Easter? The daffodil or Narcissus is named after the Greek mythological man, Narcissus, who falls in love with his own reflection while staring in a pool of water. He pines away until he dies and where he dies the daffodil blossoms. From his death comes the recurring life of the daffodil.
Another memory, from my teenage years, comes from when our church’s altar, pulpit and lectern were covered in black vestments for the Good Friday services. There was always a true sense of solemnity and sorrow in our surroundings as we left the church. But then, on Easter morning the white vestments replaced the black and the altar steps were lined with pot after pot of beautiful white Arum-Lilies. Although all white lilies represent purity the Arum-Lily, because of its trumpet shape, symbolises Triumph – Christ’s victory over death.
Everywhere we are surrounded by symbols of new life and resurrection, especially in spring, when the earth brings forth blossom from the dormant blubs and plants that have died in the previous year. The earth resurrects them once again as the cycle of beginning and ending recurs. We see newborn lambs in fields and songbirds seeking a place to nest to lay and hatch their eggs. We have our beautiful carving in the Chancel with the fledgling getting ready to fly into the world. It too is a constant reminder of life ready to be lived out.
As with the rainbow and God’s promise not to destroy his creation by water ever again, each year we have the promise of eternal life through the signs of Spring and the celebration of Easter. Above all we have Christ’s words to Martha, written in John, that this promise will come true when he says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.“
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