- News & events
- To the Saints of the Diocese of York
The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, writes:
Death does not have the last word
As we prepare to celebrate the Easter feast my prayers and good wishes are with you and with the parishes and communities you serve.
However, this year we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ against the backdrop of an ever more terrifying and unstable world. On top of Covid, which still hits the poorest communities of the world the worst, and with the horrors of the climate crisis ever more visible, we now have war in Europe. The world has changed. Everything feels more precarious than ever. Our hearts are filled with sadness and fear.
As we move into Holy Week, I have turned to a painting as a
way of apprehending the dreadful terrors of what is happening in
Ukraine. Otto Dix’s The War Triptych (pictured) is a large oil
painting of gruesome images of WW1. There are soldiers marching through
fog into battle, a devastated urban landscape that is littered with body
parts, and finally a self-portrait of the artist helping a wounded
comrade, which is reminiscent of Grunewald’s Pieta. This gruesome
triptych bears more than a passing resemblance to the equally famous
Isenheim Altarpiece where we see Christ being buried as well as his
tortured figure on the cross.
Death is always messy. Christ
crucified was not a clean act – it was bloody and shocking and horrible.
A reminder that Christ suffered as we suffer. Moreover, God is no
stranger to the battlefield; and that is the powerful Easter message –
that death does not have the last word. That the ultimate promises of
God are for a world where suffering will be no more, and where our
mourning will be turned into joyful dancing.
The challenge of the
risen Christ to us this Easter is to live in a way that speaks of this
flourishing life for all people – living Christ’s story calls us to live
become more Christ-like - to help injured comrades (as Dix so carefully
portrays), to welcome refugees, to feed the hungry, to clothe the
naked, and to bind the broken-hearted.
By the time you read this,
I hope as a diocese we will have been able to find ways of supporting
refugees arriving in our country and that our government will have been
able to be more generous than appears to be the case right now. We are
actively looking into seeing how we can welcome a refugee family here at
Year after year, we mark Holy Week with a palm
procession, washing of feet, keeping watch with Christ, an empty tomb on
Good Friday, the silence of Holy Saturday and finally the joy of Easter
Sunday. There is comfort in ritual, and surely this year our delight
will be great at gathering together again. In doing this we will be
reminded that even though we walk in dark times, the joy of Easter will
be ours once again.
So do not lose heart, sisters and brothers;
cling fast to the promise of Easter. Though we may now walk in darkness,
God’s light shines in the darkness, because Christ is risen. He is