Good Friday means death, but Easter is about new beginnings

The Northern Echo: Dean of Durham Michael Sadgrove Dean of Durham Michael Sadgrove

IN an Easter message, the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, the Dean of Durham, argues the season is one of change, but hope and expectation.

GOOD Friday means a death. Easter means a resurrection. The death and resurrection of Jesus are the very heart of Christianity. But Easter isn’t an ending; rather it is a beginning where fresh life and hope are born.

People sometimes ask: what’s the evidence for the resurrection? The answer is: we ourselves are the best evidence, because of the life-changing promise and joy within us. As one of the early Christians said: “We are the Easter people and alleluia is our song.”

The empty tomb draws many different emotions out of the first disciples: joy, doubt, uncertainty, awe, bafflement, longing, fear. But somewhere in this mix lies the dawning of a belief that life begins again and that a door of hope is held open to the world. Easter invites us to walk into that new future, grasp hold of it and make it ours. It puts suffering and tragedy in a new light; it transfigures our vision. It gives us a reason to make a difference to the world and strength to throw ourselves into the task. And if ordinary life is turned upside down by the resurrection, that is only so that God can bring about something new. In the spirit of Easter we are embarking on a big development at the Cathedral called Open Treasure.

The prayers and plans of many years are about to become a reality. We shall reconfigure the buildings round the cloister as beautiful exhibition spaces to help our guests and visitors not only enjoy the Cathedral’s historic spaces and outstanding treasures, but understand better the Cathedral’s story and its message for our own times. Thanks to the generosity of many personal supporters and friends, as well as the Heritage Lottery Fund and other grant-making bodies, we are well on the way to making Open Treasure a reality. I say “transformation” because I think of Open Treasure as a kind of resurrection. It will make a big difference to what Durham has to offer visitors and its own communities. And this will make a contribution to the tourism economy of our region. But more than anything, it will help our Cathedral to open its doors wider, offer a more generous welcome, and speak with a new voice.

This is not only a matter of buildings and artefacts. It is the meaning that matters. Ultimately that is found in the fundamental Christian truth of Good Friday and Easter that the Cathedral exists to proclaim.

It’s always tempting to stay as we are. This is as true of personal life as it is of institutions and communities. Change is always uncomfortable. If Good Friday and Easter had not happened, many lives down the centuries would have been easier, less disturbed. But at what price to the world! How many who have had a profound and lasting influence on human society were inspired by the Christian story!

So this season should fill us with expectation and hope. We know we can rise to the complexities and challenges of life today if we have faith in the resurrection, or rather, if resurrection takes root in our lives today and shows us what we can become tomorrow.

I wish you not just season’s greetings but a happy Easter and good beginnings.

Durham Cathedral Easter weekend services:

Good Friday: 8.45am, Morning Prayer and Litany; noon to 3pm, The Three Hours; noon: The Liturgy of Good Friday, preacher: the Bishop of Durham; 2pm: A Commemoration of the Passion of Jesus Christ; 3.15pm, Evening Prayer of the Burial of our Lord.

The Cathedral Nave will be reserved for personal prayer throughout the day. Visitor access will be limited to the West End.

Easter Saturday: 8.45am, Morning Prayer; 5.15pm, Evening Prayer of the Vigil of Easter.

Easter Sunday: 5am, Easter Dawn Liturgy with Initiation and the First Communion of Easter, president and preacher: the Bishop of Durham; at dawn a bonfire is lit in the cloister garth symbolising the creation of light in Genesis and the triumph of life over death through the resurrection of Jesus Christ; 8am, Holy Communion; 10am, Matins, preacher: Canon Ian Jagger; 11.15am, Sung Eucharist, preacher: Dean of Durham, presiding: the Bishop of Durham; 3.30pm, Festal Evensong (incense is used).

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