13 April 2006

Easter, no con

Most of the people I know seem to be going to Eastercon. Several friends and acquaintances are appearing on panels there. One is even filming a documentary about it! For anyone reading this who doesn’t know what Eastercon is, it’s the annual convention of the British Science Fiction Association. And this year it is happening in Glasgow.

However, much as I would like to attend some of the sessions and drop in on a couple of the publishers’ parties, I won’t be going to Eastercon. As the name suggests, it clashes with Easter. While I enjoy writing and reading SF and fantasy, it definitely takes second place to my Christian faith, which is fundamental to who and what I am.

So what will I be doing instead of shmoozing at Eastercon? I will be immersed in the various acts of worship that make up the latter half of Holy Week. These can be seen as a stylized reworking of the events of that first Easter in Jerusalem. Alternatively, the period from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday is a kind of extended meditation on those events and their significance.

For me the meditation will begin with the communion service on Maundy Thursday evening. This, even more than most eucharists, is a recollection of the Last Supper. Immediately afterwards, at St Mary’s, the church lights will be dimmed (recollecting that after the Last Supper was over Jesus and the disciples walked into the night towards Gethsemane) and all altar coverings and decorations will be removed (symbolizing Jesus’ abandonment by his disciples and subsequent stripping before the crucifixion). This will be followed by a vigil until midnight – an echo of the disciples waiting with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Good Friday is the day of crucifixion. At St Mary’s it is marked by three hours of meditation on the cross, finishing at 3 p.m. (according to tradition, the time at which Jesus uttered his last words from the cross). It is a day of mourning, but one that is nevertheless set against the hope of resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Traditionally on Holy Saturday the usual church services are suspended until after sunset. It is a day for quiet meditation on the darkness of a world without hope.

Easter Sunday actually begins after sunset on Holy Saturday with the Easter vigil. The service begins with the church in darkness (just as the service on Maundy Thursday ended), then the paschal candle is lit and from that one light candles held by all the worshippers are lit until the church is full of light. This, of course, represents the resurrection of Christ, the triumph of light over darkness. And that celebration flows over into Easter Sunday itself with its light, colour, music and smells (yes, at St Mary’s we sometimes use incense). We have even been known to have an Easter ceilidh after the festal choral evensong on the Sunday evening.

And all this happens because we believe Jesus Christ (God incarnate) was crucified and then rose from the dead in order to reconcile the world to himself.

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