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The long religious and secular weekend is over. The Bank Holiday draws to an end and the liturgical celebrations of Easter reached their climax the day before yesterday. As Quakers do not keep these 'times and seasons', I find myself caught in a challenging no-woman's land at Easter and Christmas.
Over the last few days, my Twitter timeline has been full of reflection, exaltation and alleluias. Clergy have shared their anxieties over Easter candles, choirs, sermons and fatigue. They have celebrated the completion of their celebrations with bacon butties, gin, chocolate and a general sense of unbuttoned tension and well-earned relaxation.
In the betwixt and between land of the Peculiar People, Easter is acknowledged. But there are no forms nor dressed altars. The Meeting House looks just the same on Easter Sunday as it does on all the other First Days of the year. Sometimes vocal ministry will make reference to the season. Often, it will not.
This Sunday, I was more grateful than ever for the deep and gathered silence. I have no belief in the physical resurrection, holding instead to a sense of wondering gratitude that Jesus – the man whom an elderly Friend of my Meeting once so memorably described as “ a man with a genius for God” – endures in the hearts, minds and lives of so many of us. But the mystery of death will not, for me, be so easily rolled away.
It seems particularly poignant to reflect on that mystery this year. My nonagenarian auntie entered into her peace just a month ago. The last few months have been filled with anxiety, sadness and fatigue as we made our various ways up and down to northern Cumbria. To sit beside the increasing frailness of her body and, in the last weeks, the clouding of her mind, has been painful. The cessation of physical existence is indeed an immense mystery and I know of no evidence that any have returned from beyond its horizon. Nonetheless, I do not doubt for a moment that she has returned to her Source.
But because silence offers the space to bring these thoughts, because it does not belabour me with victorious hymns or dragoon me into shouts of rejoicing, I may yet find my way there. Perhaps it is a form of via negativa – in exploring what is not and what I am unable to accept, I may eventually learn 'what is'.
For me, right now, only silence respects that cloud of unknowing.
* More Easter reflections from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/Easter
© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/quakerpenTweet