Easter reflections from the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham

 I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth. Truth? What is that? I have just returned to England from four days in Spain, in the ancient capital of Spain: Valladolid. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the streets and squares of that town. Much as here in Birmingham, people seemed to be so proud of their city. But there I could also sense that people shared a common view and purpose in life. People instinctively seem to belong together. They fill their plazas; they walk and talk together. The generations mix together easily; the youngsters respect each other; even late at night and into the early morning there was no harsh behaviour, no air of disquiet. They seem to share so much. Of course the sunshine helps, but so too does a light of a different sort. The streets and the squares of Valladolid are thronged with crowds every day and every night this week. For this is Holy Week and every year at this time the drama of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ is played out in great outdoor pageants. Jesus greeted by jubilant crowds waving palms; Peter denying Christ, and then meeting him again; Veronica wiping the face of Jesus; Mary broken hearted at the foot of the cross; Jesus dying on the cross. A trumpeter goes round the town, out into the suburbs, summoning people to come together for these events. And the people come. It is part of who they are and of their shared way of life. These pageants are carried out without words. They go beyond words. They are ancient and moving expressions of the story still written in the hearts and minds of the people. And the story tells the truth. It tells the truth about living and dying, about sin and forgiveness, about love and compassion. The truth holds the people together. And life is more wholesome. Sometimes we are tempted to think that religion is just a private affair. We might think that there is no clear answer to the question posed by Pilate to Jesus: Truth? What is that?, Today's society tells us that each person has his or her own truth. If you are convinced enough about something then it is true for you. But that doesn't really make much sense. After all, we all share the same human nature. We all belong to the same human race. That is the basis on which we begin to search for the values that we all share, the principles, the truths on which life is properly based. To believe that we all have our own truth, is to isolate us from one another and break down any chance we might have of living together in true harmony in society. In fact, religion in the best sense is far from a private affair. That is why the people of Valladolid are out on the streets in their thousands. That is why so many people go to church during this Holy Week. They know that through their religious belief they are in touch with the deeper truths about themselves and about how to live together in community. My faith is that the God from whom all this life flows, its unsourced source has cast a light on our human nature, illuminating its deepest truths, laying bear its puzzling patterns. That light is a person: Jesus, the Christ. I was born for this, I came into the world for this; to bear witness to the truth, (John 18.37). With these words our search for understanding changes. Now it can be conducted in that form of search which best fits our nature. The search for truth becomes a relationship. In faith we can know Christ. In that relationship the light he casts on human nature comes into my life. In that light I begin to untangle the mystery of my own being. I am led towards the very source of life. In the Holy Week ceremonies we hear the wonderful words: When I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself, (John 12.32). We listen again to the narrative of Christ's death on the cross and of his rising from the dead Television programmes now agree that he did indeed exist; that he was indeed crucified. Reliable witnesses across two thousand years tell us that he rose from the dead. From Him comes the greatest of all gifts, the gift of God's Holy Spirit to dwell in us and open for us the pathway to that fullness of life. Perhaps the Easter story is in danger of being forgotten by many today. Yet the need for it is as plain as ever. I hope that many more people this year will give themselves a break and listen to the invitation of Christ, and let it find a home in their hearts. Then they too, with me, will wish each other a very Happy Easter.

Share this story