THERE are signs of hope all around in the middle of this Holy Week as we approach Easter. The start of the lifting of restrictions earlier this week meant the possibility of meeting up

in gardens and outdoor gatherings, including two households with the rule of six coming back into play. Outdoor sports facilities have been re-opened while the stay at home rule has been rescinded. And right on cue, the sun began to shine again, accompanying the lifting of restrictions with a lifting of spirits.

It feels like it’s been a long wait but the vaccination roll-out and the gradual easing of restrictions have combined to gently suggest that the worst is hopefully over and that with cautious optimism we can start to think of life beyond the pandemic.

The journey of the past year has been a reminder that things we have grown used to taking for granted have in fact turned out to be surprisingly fragile.

Being able to spend time with family, meeting up with friends, eating out, going to the pub, going to school or work, going to a football match. Each of these and more will be opportunities which will return again in the coming weeks but how long will it take before we begin to take for granted once more those moments of life that intertwine to make it such a precious gift ?

Holy Week – those days leading up to Easter – serves as a reminder of the journey made by Jesus in the days before his death and the experience of his disciples who followed him. Towards that journey’s end those women and men who had abandoned all they had to follow Jesus watched in horror as the person in whom they placed their faith was crucified before their eyes.

For them, that first Holy Saturday would have been a day of fear, of despair, of having their world turned upside down by the events around them as all they had taken for granted was snatched away. But that was not where their story ended.

With the rising of the sun the following day came the rising of the son as the disciples went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried only to discover it empty.

The risen Christ appeared to his disciples, eating with them, inviting them to place their hands in his wounds, all proof that of his triumph over death.

The traditional Easter Day greeting “He is Risen!” is met with the response “He is Risen indeed! Hallelujah!”.

It is a reminder that hope never dies. It’s a reminder not only of new life but the gift of it as well as a time to renew what we do with this most precious of gifts. It is a reminder that even in the midst of grief and sorrow, difficulty and trial, that death does not have the last word. In this battle it is Love that wins.

May you have the most joyous of Easter times.

L The Reverend Arun Arora is the vicar of St Nicholas’ Church in Durham