“On Friday I was walking in St James’ Park. It was glorious: warm sunshine, the grass crowned with daisies, blossom in abundance, bubbles being blown into the air and people, lots and lots of people enjoying a beautiful spring day, together and at ease. Just wonderful.
“This scene, and its contrast with the hardships and deprivations of the pandemic, help us to understand something of the joy of this Easter Day. This is the day of new life, of spring, or in the words of the poet ‘nature is never spent; there lives the dearest freshness deep down things’ (God’s Grandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins). And yes it is good for us to be together here in the Cathedral again, to celebrate this new beginning, after so long apart.
“Yet there is so much more to this Feast. Easter is not just a sunny day amidst unpredictable weather. No. Easter marks a radical shift, an earth-shaking newness of spirit, of hope, of forgiveness. That Christ is truly risen from the dead changes literally everything, spring, summer, autumn or winter.
“To appreciate this we do well to recall the journey to Easter. It has been a journey which explored all the darkness of our living: betrayal of love, in the action of Judas; the scandalous injustice of the trial of Jesus; the seemingly limitless cruelty of the passion; the finality of death. Our Easter faith takes these realities seriously. This is not an escapist holiday. Ours is a faith that looks sin and evil in the eye and knows that, through Christ’s Easter victory, they are defeated.
“This is the glory of our Risen Lord. This is why we have a joy in our hearts and a song on our lips. Yes, we know our own failures, and those of others. Every day they are before us. At times we take a perverse satisfaction in pointing them out, not least from pulpits. Rather we bring them to him who alone can lift us beyond our failures.
“But so much more importantly today we know our hope and our joy to be accomplished in the Risen Lord. We know this as surely as that rock was removed from the tomb, as Mary of Magdala was the first to see, as surely as the breathless Peter saw the linen shroud cloth laying on the ground and the cloth that had been wrapping his Master’s head neatly folded and put to one side. Yes, we know the source of our joy and of our unshakeable hope: it is he who, as truly God, conquered death once and for all and who, as truly man, puts that victory into the hands and hearts of his sisters and brothers.
“The angel at the tomb posed life’s key questions: ‘Why do you look among the dead?’ Why do we seek satisfaction, resolution, in things and places that cannot provide them? Today we learn again no longer to look among the dead, for life, for ‘He is not there. He is risen!’
“As we continue with our daily living, let us take up, with a firm grip, both the cross and the candle: the cross, that sign of his ultimate victory; the candle of his enduring light. With those trophies we can bear the crosses of our lives with fidelity and love. With them we can also be his witnesses to those who do indeed still look among the dead for their answers to life’s dilemmas. With Christ our Blessed Lord, we can be like Peter speaking before Cornelius, the powerful Roman Centurion whose heart had already been touched by God’s grace; we can be like Mary and the other women, who lavished love on their Lord in the way they knew best and were not ashamed to let others see that love in action. This is his Easter invitation to each of us. With generous love and infectious joy let us respond!
“Words given to Mary of Magdala, in the wonderful hymn which we have just heard, sum up our festive day:
Tell us, Mary:
Say what thou didst see
Upon the way.
The tomb the Living did enclose
I saw Christ’s glory as he rose!
That Christ is truly risen
From the dead we know.
Victorious King, thy mercy show!’
A very happy Easter to you all!
✠ Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster
Homily Given on Easter Sunday, 17th April 2022, at Westminster Cathedral
Photo: Marcin Mazur/CBCEW.org.uk