Meditation by Brother Alois

“Death does not have the last word any more”

Saturday 16 April 2022

It is a great joy to be here in such large numbers to celebrate the feast of Easter. We will be lighting the Easter fire tomorrow morning at 6.15 in the garden above St Stephen’s Spring. Then at 10 o’clock we celebrate the Eucharist. To remind us of the women who first announced to the apostles that Jesus was risen, a group of women will be bringing the Easter fire to the church.

But how can we enter the joy of Easter when every day we are hearing more news of the intolerable suffering of women, men and children in Ukraine? We are all of us horrified by the war and the unprecedented violence that have been unleashed against the people of that country. We remember as well the wars and conflicts in other parts of the world. And we cannot forget all the consequences of the pandemic. All of this weighs heavily on us.

I would like to share with you some words that were written to us by Yulia, a young woman from Ukraine, at the beginning of the invasion: “I am now in Lviv, in safety, unlike millions of other Ukrainians.” Then she questioned herself: “How can I stop hatred rising in my heart when I see the photograph of the parents who have just lost their 18-month-old child, wounded by a Russian missile fragment?” “How can I see the author of such a crime as a human being and not just as a murderer?”

I had to reply to her that I didn’t have a real answer to these questions, but the fact that she was asking them bore witness to a real openness and to hope. And I assured her that I would share these questions with you here, and that we would be carrying them in our prayers.
Why is there evil? This question as it were opens up a void. We can cry out with it in prayer, but too often God seems to remain silent.

Our Christian faith does not give us an easy answer to the why of suffering. But if we are together today, it is because we believe that our faith can help us to live with this question without losing hope.

It is as though we are in the middle of a Holy Saturday that does not come to an end. Holy Saturday: that day when God is silent, between the death of Jesus on the cross and the morning of his resurrection. Jesus died crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He who had done nothing wrong, who was nothing other than love, entered into the deepest darkness that humanity can experience: exclusion, torture, hatred, and finally violent death.
Holy Saturday reminds us of this mystery: Christ, the one sent by God, undertook a struggle to bring God’s love where death was reigning. The first Christians expressed this by these words: He descended into hell. This idea has been particularly developed by the Christians of the East in their liturgy and in the tradition of icons.

This evening we have placed the icon of Christ’s descent into hell in the middle of the church. It shows how Christ descends towards those who are dead. But his movement of descent is at the same time an ascent: he breaks open the gates of hell and sets all the prisoners free. He was really dead, but he rises up from among the dead and he energetically takes them up with him. Death has lost its power; it does not have the last word any more. So this icon is also called Anastasis, the Resurrection.

This mystery can only be expressed by images; our human language cannot express it in any other way. Christ is alive. Invisible to our sight, he can walk alongside every human being. He does not forsake those who are suffering; he will bring them justice, even on the far side of death. Our Christian hope is not just a vague dream of a life that will never end, but a firm hope for justice for everyone. And this hope can make a difference to our lives every day.

Tomorrow, during the Easter celebration, we will be witnesses to a sign of this hope in the risen Christ. Our brother Bernat will be committing his whole life in our community. And he will be doing this, as the rule of our community expresses it, “because of Christ and the Gospel”.
It is only because of a firm hope in Christ, because of a trust placed in God, that someone can say a yes for always.

Bernat comes from Catalonia, and his family are here to be with us for this commitment. It is not the first time that his parents are here at Taizé: they came already with Bernat and his brother and sister, when he was still very young, thirteen years old.

The celebration of the resurrection of Christ and the joy that it kindles in us does not distance us from the suffering of the world. On the contrary, it can prepare us to face the trials of life, our own trials and those of others. Yes, the risen Christ sends us out to show by our lives that there is hope beyond all human hope.

Tomorrow morning, after the Eucharist, we will be able to greet each other with these words: “Christ is risen” and we can reply “He is risen indeed!”

Last updated: 19 April 2022