Easter Vigil 2017
I have always listened to Prayer for the Day at 5.43 each morning on Radio Four, just before Farming Today. This morning the speaker was Bishop Angaelos, the Coptic Orthodox Bishop for the United Kingdom. I was so moved by his words that I've set aside the homily I prepared for this evening and will read you his short talk instead. I hope you will forgive me, but what has saddened me most, ever since the Iraq war began, is the annihilation of ancient Christian communities and churches in the Middle East and North Africa. The blame rests, in part, on our shoulders. This goes back, of course, to the break-up of the Ottoman Empire a hundred years' ago.
Bishop Angaelos said:
"The celebration of Easter tends to bring its own set of challenges to Christians across the world, who face religious persecution on a daily basis. Most recently, our own Coptic Orthodox community in Egypt suffered brutal terrorist attacks that robbed families of loved ones, and shocked communities as a result of senseless and indiscriminate violence.
Terrorist attacks like these leave us questioning how humanity can reach a stage, when the value and sanctity of life is lost entirely. They can lead us to feel afraid or hopeless, if not also bitter and angry.
Yet, on this eve of Easter Sunday we remember that, although our journey is often characterised by suffering and challenge, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ promises victory over evil and a conquering of death itself.
When I look at the peaceful reaction of my brothers and sisters in Egypt, who face on going terror, I am humbled by their example of determined faith and Christian witness. Many, who were subject to the recent attacks on churches during a time of prayer, have already chosen to return to their churches to pray as families. That, to me, demonstrates the true power of the Risen Lord in our lives today, that we need never again fear death, but see it as a new beginning and entry point to a glorious life to come.
Lord, we pray for the safety of our brothers and sisters in Egypt and for all Christian communities, who are facing constant provocation and attempts to move them to violence and division. May your peace continually reign in our hearts. Amen."
Dear brothers and sisters, may our celebration of the Resurrection this Easter renew our faith in the Risen Christ and strengthen our desire to live in the power of his Spirit, ever bearing witness to the peace and joy of God's Kingdom, even in our suffering and pain. On behalf of Fr Prior and the monastic community, I wish you all a very happy Easter. Christ is risen; he is risen indeed. Alleluia.