St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

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April 11th Easter Vigil 2020           John Marsh

As we approach the Triduum, standing before Good Friday, The Great Vigil and The Celebration of the Resurrection, we need to understand that these liturgical occasions need, as with religion itself, to be interpreted. There is no room for literalists or the new atheists who in ham fisted ways remove nuance, flatten subtlety, at times confusing poetic proclamation with historical fact or delusory debris best disposed ¹.  Holy week and religion itself require love, the hermeneutics of love, a delicate art of interpretation, possessing the right touch, a learned wisdom to navigate treacherous waters.

With thanks or an apology to Charles Dickens, we begin with a paraphrase of the opening lines of the novella, A Christmas Carol:

Yeshua was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The fact of his death, according to story, was witnessed by his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Yeshua bar Yosef was as dead as doornail.³ This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story we have just heard…³

Dead though he was and as gruesome as it was, Yeshua’s death witnesses a truth…

He died forgiving those who killed him, ‘father forgive for they know not what they do?’

His is death which does not betray his life, his faith, his hope…

If we respond to this truth, embodying this forgiveness, his is a death in which love cannot be stopped by death…

His is a death reaching beyond the grave, stirring within the realities of death, stirring hearts and minds, his life, while swallowed, calls to those alive to honour life by responding, responding to life’s call, honouring others cry for justice, compassion and respect…

Is this not the impossible possibility of salvation, redemption’s call laid upon our hearts?

Is not his death a messianic call to us to risk life’s vocational conversion to hear and respond to other voices, those lost and left, those voices inside and out?

Is not his death a messianic call to attend to the cries of those before us, those dead, those alive?

Is not his death a cry, a magnification of the sinfulness of every unjust death?

In that cry, that call, is not sanctification astir?

Is there not within his death – life; his life stirring within our lives, within the life of the world, life inviting us, luring, haunting us to shoulder the cross?

Is this not a death in which Yeshua is martyred (made a witness) to the promise, the promise of god’s reign, the promise of life and, are we not the inheritors of the promise, shouldering responsibility for the work, the work of the promise?

Is Yeshua not a poet of the reign of god, embodying, proclaiming the hopes, the dreams of what the world,

life would look like if god reigned?

The powers killed the poet yet hopefully the poem lives on…

How can Yeshua be dead if his face, his visage, his words, his life haunt us still?

How can Yeshua bar Yosef be dead if we feel his presence within, the breathing of his spirit within our hearts?

So why look for the dead among the living?

 ¹ An example of new atheists would be the work of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens.

 ² Obvious or not, this is a paraphrase of the opening lines of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The usual opening us as follows:

Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.

 ³ This is a slight paraphrase of the opening lines of the best movie adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol starring Alistair Sims, directed by Brian Desmond-Hurst in 1951.