I couldn’t sleep…….. people often talk about having sleepless nights, and whilst I have no desire to sit in the corner of other people’s bedrooms whilst they sleep, in fact that would be completely odd, I do wonder what other people mean when they say ‘oh I didn’t sleep at all last night’.
I suspect in reality, I got a couple of hours of restless slumber, but I certainly don’t remember, maybe the late meal didn’t help for a good night’s sleep. But what I do remember of that Holy Saturday night, not ever to be called Easter Saturday, for the simple reason that Easter is yet to come, (in case you are wondering what that thud was, it was me coming off my soapbox!) was that I lay awake with troubled mind and spirit, with the same phrase playing over and over in my mind. ‘I will serve the Lord’. Indeed if I am totally honest, perhaps because I am never one to avoid a bit of dramatic tension, it was actually a sung phrase. I also remember saying, ‘well that is all very well God, but how exactly do you want me to do that?’
Perhaps having such a tumultuous night it was not that surprising, after all it had been an extraordinary few days. Not only had I taken part in the emotional and spiritual roller coaster of Jesus’ last few days at the end of a year of recovery after my heart surgery, but in the midst of it all ,being reminded of the finality of life, if I needed to be further, I had taken part in Professor Stephen Hawking’s funeral as a citizen of Cambridge. So emotions were, not surprisingly, bubbling up as I lay in bed knowing that my alarm was going to go off in the darkness of Sunday morning.
Of course the last and extraordinary stage of following the Passion ,as it is known in the church, is Easter day itself and for one such as me who is constantly drawn to and attracted by symbolism, one of the most beautiful moments in the church’s year is to take part in the dawn service on Easter Sunday where the light is welcomed back into the church. So just like last year, I got up before the birds started their heralding of the new day- frankly because it was so dark it really wasn’t the new day.
After a shower to compensate for the sleep deprived state, I took a short walk into town and in some ways the journey was very similar to last year’s. Again I met some startled and staggering participants in the evening economy walking in the opposite direction from me. The weather was also similar with a distinct nip in the air, but I am grateful to say, one significant difference was my physical strength and the pace of my walking. Indeed I remember Good Friday last year being in physical pain to stand for long periods of time in the service, compared to this year where during the outdoor Ecumenical (shared) service with other churches, a friend discreetly whispered would I be happy to help carry the enormous cross back into Great St Mary’s. So yes I was very much stronger, in some senses of the word.
So I joined the 20 or so other people as the fire was lit outside the church and the Easter candle was lit from it. Perhaps it is the artist in me that in those moments of intimacy, I find myself also wishing to step out of it, in order to document and share with others, so I took some photos. The irony was not lost on me, that at the very moment where we connect with the elemental and spiritual in the darkness I was still pressing buttons of the very much 21st century variety. But I wonder if perhaps that is the cost of the artist: to be fully immersed and yet observing.
As we stepped into the darkness of the church illuminated only around the Book, the words were shared of God’s love through the centuries for a broken, but ever redeemable world, just as the light was shared among the growing congregation. Incidentally the police looked slightly concerned as they drove past with the fire happily burning outside the west door of the church, but I was assured that the Verger was keeping an eye on it.
At the culmination of the service, as the dawn light flooded into the church through the east window, I must admit to tears being in my eyes at the breaking of the bread. In that moment I realised how far I have come on my journey in only a year and wondered about what may lie ahead as a person of Easter.