"Love refused, love victorious": Easter message from Bishop Gates

Galilee hillside with stones and trees Alan M. Gates Galilee hillside

This child through David’s city / shall ride in triumph by;
The palm shall strew its branches / and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry / though heavy, dull, and dumb,
And lie within the roadway / to pave his kingdom come. [i]

It is a troublous Holy Week this year. Our hearts ache for those huddling in Ukraine, starving in Gaza, terrorized in Haiti; for those grieving in Baltimore and Moscow; for the sorrowful and anxious known to us individually.  Perhaps it is this heaviness of spirit that has me thinking less of the unqualifiedly triumphant Easter hymns, and more of the meditative Christmas hymn, A stable lamp is lighted, in which even the verse presaging the Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem is subdued with a somber foreboding.

Yet he shall be forsaken / and yielded up to die;
The sky shall groan and darken, / and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry / for stony hearts of men:
God’s blood upon the spearhead / God’s love refused again.

Make no mistake: it is the stony hearts of all humankind which have put Love to death across time and in every place. “God’s love refused again” – and again and again. It is that refusal which we see on the battlefields; in the political rancor and governing paralysis; in bigotry born of fear; in hatred nurtured and held close like a security blanket; in our own incapacity to rise above slights and resentments. Love casts out fear – but only if we let it.

But now, as at the ending, / the low is lifted high;
The stars shall bend their voices, / and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry, / in praises of the Child
By whose descent among us / the worlds are reconciled.

The truth of these world-shattering hours – from the sky-darkening sigh of Good Friday to the Easter Alleluia at the break of day – the truth of this story is that our stony hearts cannot in the end put Love to death. Because Love is stronger. Even the stones within our hearts and upon our hearts shall be lifted – rolled back like the tombstone on Easter Morn. Even those stones shall cry in praise of the Child who was Love incarnate, who has defeated death, and by whose resurrected power and grace we shall finally be reconciled with one another and with God.

Love is come again!  Easter blessings to you.

In the name of the Risen Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates

[i] Hymn 104 (The Hymnal 1982), words by Richard Wilbur (1921-2017)