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Series of Weekly Lenten Reflections: 3 of 8

Lent, a surprising re-reading of the Easter story

Lent, we are suggesting, is an invitation to re-ligion in its healthiest sense: to re-read (re-lego) and to re-join (re-ligio) the story of Easter.

Last week Dr Phil Daughtry’s words struck a chord with me: “We are intimately and mystically connected through the Spirit of God to our home, this earth, and are part of its cycle of birth, life, death, and resurrection.” What Phil describes is sometimes called the Paschal Cycle, or Paschal Mystery—the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. ‘Paschal’ means ‘Passover’; so, for example, Jesus as the ‘Paschal Lamb’ is the sacrificial lamb who ‘passes-over’ from death to life.

Clearly the Paschal Mystery is central to the Christian faith. If you have grown up in the church, it can become difficult not to take its events and meaning for granted—perhaps something like, ‘God sent Jesus to suffer, die and be raised again for the forgiveness of sins so we can have eternal life.’ Here is a profound, grand-scale truth.

And yet I wonder: how might Easter move from a generic theological statement, to actually re-join with our incremental, daily lives? This question invites a re-reading of the Easter story and its significance. The Catholic spiritual theologian Ronald Rolheiser[1] offers one way we might notice the Paschal Cycle’s presence in our stories:

  1. Name your deaths (Good Friday)
  2. Receive your new life (Easter Sunday)
  3. Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality (40 days waiting)
  4. Do not cling to the old; instead, let it ascend and give you its blessing (Ascension)
  5. Accept the Spirit gifted to you to live the life you are in fact now living (Pentecost)

This seems a very real way to “to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil 3:10). Is not this rhythm central to the human experience?

Perhaps Easter is not primary a doctrinal box to tick, but a lived reality to which we might come more deeply attuned. Perhaps Lent gives us a chance to ask slightly different questions: Are we awake to the Paschal reality already at play in our lives? Can we attend to it, embrace it, own it, allow it to carry us? Can we lose our life by letting go of our narrow, ego-driven and insecure way of living that wants to cling, in order to become who we already, truly are? How can we become ‘poor in spirit’, ready to let go of our grasp that we might be grasped? Such questions remind us that the Paschal Mystery at work in our stories cannot be controlled; only waited for, noticed, received, celebrated, shared.

The season of Lent gives a breathing space to ponder afresh such a surprising re-reading of Easter. It invites to lean into ways in which Michael Leunig’s words might be particularly evident in our lives:
That which is Christ-like within us shall be crucified. It shall suffer and be broken.
And that which is Christ-like within us shall rise up. It shall love and create.[2]

There are plenty of ‘deaths’ in our ordinary lives, many ‘mini-conversions’ in a myriad of circumstances, where we undergo this mystery of death and new life. This re-reading of the Easter story asks you, asks me:

Will such deaths be terminal, or Paschal?


Bruce Hulme_clr corrected

Dr Bruce Hulme

Bruce is Head of Spiritual Direction at Tabor. He is passionate about helping others ‘talk the walk’ in ways that cultivate deep, reflective, and congruent living, so they can more faithfully walk their talk. This is expressed through his teaching (reflective practice, formation, pastoral care, spirituality, spiritual direction), scholarship, spiritual direction practice and curation of retreats.