More brightening her, rare-dear Britain, as his reign rolls,
Pride, rose, prince of us, high-priest,
Our hearts’ charity hearth’s fire, ourthoughts’ chivalry’s throng’s Lord.
from Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.
The Wreck of the Deutschland, Stanza 35
Let him easter in us.... Hopkins’s resurrection prayer captures the sense of transformation, rededication and recentering that Christians experience when they enter fully into the Easter mysteries. To be sure, renewal is taking place all around us. In the northern hemisphere, the bloom is on the earth. From pussy willow to forsythia, from magnolia to cherry blossom, from crocus to daffodil, nature is a riot of life. To Christians, the gaudy earth is God’s blessing and more. It is a sacrament pointing to our new creation in Christ.
A new creation? We can hardly believe it. In this time of war, after more than a year of scandal that continues to mar the church, as the ranks of the unemployed swell and the homeless return to our streets, a new creation? Dare we believe it? The first returning robins brought a hint of hope. Flights of geese heading north gave us a portent of brighter days ahead, and choirs of songbirds brought stirrings of joy. A month after the vernal equinox, the spreading light and gentle air give intimations of the weight of glory. But Easter comes only when Christ lives in us. He is the dayspring to the dimness of us.
Like the seemingly endless winter in the northeast and the Great Lakes region, Lent was a time when we learned Luther’s lesson: we cannot by ourselves throw off the weight of the past. Even reptiles shed their skins, but not we. The pastour past, the past of our choices, the past of sufferings inflicted on us, the past of our frustrated and unrealized desires, the past of our achievements overly esteemed and our injuries unforgiventhis past is who we have become. Someone else must cut us free from the burden we have become to ourselves. Christ, in the Easter mystery, is the one who lifts the weight of the past. Christ is the crimson-cresseted east brightening our lives.
In spring, the earth is renewed, but in Christ we are transformed. We are God’s new creation. Christ remakes us from within. The life we must lead is totally new, radically different from the life we have lived before. Put on, then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, St. Paul writes, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience, forbearing one another...forgiving each other.... And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.... How radically different this creation is from the old, ruled by pride and fear and pain. But it is so, not because we have made it or willed it, but because Christ lives in us. As we live and breathe, he has become our hearts’ charity hearth’s fire, our thoughts’ chivalry’s throng’s Lord.
For Hopkins, priest as well as poet, it was not enough that each soul be renewed individually or that the church alone be sanctified. He was patriotic in the deepest sense. The light of glory had to penetrate the land and the people he loved. Like a seer, he exclaimed, Our king back, Oh, on English souls, and he relished Christ’s light brightening rare-dear Britain. Easter transformation is for the world to which we belong, for our country, rare-dear America too. At a time when many Americans, including many Christians, have adopted a pagan ethic of power, under the illusion, as Pope John Paul II wrote, of fighting evil, the light of Easter is needed to penetrate our country and our culture.
Transformation in Christ is not restricted to the baptismal bath and the sanctuary. More and more people are coming to understand that the Gospel is good news for today’s world. It can and does change our world. In this issue, William Bole shows the light of Easter penetrating cultures and renewing states through the exercise of forgiveness between onetime adversaries, victims and persecutors. Forgiveness, once the work of the confessional, is now the business of the public square too, helping divided societies move toward healing, peace and reconciliation. Transformation will come to superpower America when American Christians put on Christ. For when we are Christ through our self-sacrificing, humble, forgiving love, then his Easter light will surely penetrate the darkness of our world.