Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life
19th March 2020
There is no better illustration of Easter hope than Coventry Cathedral, which is why at this time of year the Inters visit it as a part of their Religious Studies programme. Alongside the bombed shell of the medieval cathedral arises the 20th century cathedral, like a phoenix from the ashes, like Christ from the tomb.
On the night of 14th November 1940, the German Luftwaffe, dropped their bombs on the city of Coventry. Nearly one thousand people were killed and much of the city lay in ruins. The following morning when Provost Howard surveyed the devastating damage from the remaining cathedral tower, he noticed that the charred beams of the medieval roof timbers had fallen into the shape of a cross. Here was a symbol of hope and it provided the inspiration to set about rebuilding the cathedral, not just for the people of Coventry but for the whole world. The charred beams were tied together with wire to form a cross and together with another cross, made from three burnt medieval nails that had supported the roof timbers, were placed upon the simple stone altar in the ruins. Behind the crosses were carved the words ‘Father forgive’. Some had wanted the words to read ‘Father forgive them’ but this was contested, since it was felt that none is free from fault and that the cathedral should stand testimony to the power of forgiveness and reconciliation between both nations and individuals. To that end, the cathedral was rebuilt from money donated internationally and most notably by Germany. Not only that but today Coventry has become a centre where opportunities for reconciliation between people in conflict from around the world are hosted.
The Christian season of Easter does not shy away from the reality of suffering and conflict in the world, in fact the crucifixion of Jesus graphically illustrates it. However, it does not have the final word. From the broken body of Christ on the cross comes the hope that when things are desolate if we can but open our eyes, the seeds of hope may be visible. As the new cathedral arose from the destruction from the old, the Christ story continues with his resurrection. This offers the hope that renewal and new life can emerge in our lives and relationships through forgiveness and reconciliation, perhaps humanly impossible but divinely possible.
I cannot finish this post without mentioning coronavirus which is impacting so significantly on our lives. This is a reality into which we are challenged to embody the hope of the Easter season, through looking out for the most vulnerable in our communities and acting responsibly.
Take care and happy Easter.