After the labours of Holy Week and Easter, Malcolm Guite bathes in the one who gives rest

13 April 2018

After the labours of Holy Week and Easter, Malcolm Guite bathes in the one who gives rest

I LOVE the feel of these days after Easter: it’s like bathing in a clear stream after climbing a high mountain, like floating on buoyant waters after laying down a heavy load.

For those who have been ministering in their churches over Holy Week, clergy and lay ministers alike, part of the load that they lay down is just the sheer intellectual, physical, and spiritual labour of planning, organising, and “taking” the plethora of extra Holy Week services; the effort of writing and preaching those crucial sermons that take both preacher and congregation deep into the heart of our faith: its unflinching confrontation with the worst of human malice, the deepest of human grief, the strangest of human confusions, and then, after the eerie pause of Holy Saturday, the resurgence of joy, a joy that itself passes all understanding but thatnevertheless we seek, Easter by Easter, to understand a little more.

No wonder so many pastors and church leaders spend the second half of Easter Day, and a good deal of Easter Monday, curled up in their beds in a kind of semi-comatose recovery position.

But that sense of relief, and the release that follows it, as we emerge into the classic clergy post-Easter break, is more than just relaxation after effort. If we have been able to hear even fragments of our own sermons, if we have taken in spiritually even a hint of what we took in bodily with our Easter communion, then there is a release from much heavier burdens than work, there are stronger arms than our own lifting us, and a hidden voice, that was always there, but overlaid by so much else, saying clearly at last: “Come unto me, all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

So, after the long wilderness journey of Lent, we come again to the spring and the source, and bathe in it. For me, it often feels like that transcendent moment in the Nicolas Roeg film Walkabout, where, after the desert journey, when they can scarcely move for thirst and heat, their aboriginal guide brings the children to a deep green pool, and there is a beautiful wordless sequence where they dive, and bathe, and swim in its refreshing blue-green waters.

The buoyant waters of this Easter season have probably carried semi-recumbent readers of the Church Times down from their own Easter mountain in many different directions, and to many different hideaways and boltholes. They have carried us, as they do most years, to north Norfolk, and a little cottage in Brancaster, where we have the pleasure of doing nothing for a week — nothing but floating on grace, paddling in its shallows, and sailing over its depths.

Even George and Zara, our two retired greyhounds, for whom this is the first Norfolk excursion, notice the difference. After six months of demonstrating to us daily how to loll on armchairs, snooze on sofas, and drape oneself elegantly over a chaise longue, they have noted, with approval, that we are finally getting the hang of it, and learning how to relax.

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