“Let him easter in us, be a dayspring

to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east “

Gerald Manley Hopkins

The Wreck of the Deutschland

 

It would seem in the space of two thousand years, everything that could have been written about Easter, has been, except of course our own stories. As children of the Resurrection Easter is forever in our hearts, though I’m conscious it may not feel like that, when for whatever reason we lose the way.

 

As far back as I remember I’ve been seeking God.

After a hard day swimming, playing and rock pooling, we children would climb the cliff path home, and lie on the top to catch our breath. Gazing into those summer skies, I thought if only I looked hard enough, far enough into their beauty, I might catch sight of God in his heaven. In that summer of sky searching, I never once saw him, but I wondered if he knew I was there, wondering.

 

Fast forward the reel of memory. I am nine. It is the last sea bathe of an Indian summer. I am running across hard ribbed sands, to the sea far out. Impossible for a mermaid I think. There’s a family of dolphins dancing, silvered against the horizon. Sky and sea, as one, turn to liquid pearls. Utter joy fills me. I understand in that forever moment, that God is Creator and immanent in his Creation. I run into the sea. I run into the glory of God.

 

By eleven, I’d taken to searching the winter night sky for ‘answers’ to existence itself. Alone, beneath that vast, glittering darkness, doubt and angst entered my soul. How could I live with dark night inside me? Then I heard, as though for the first time, words from Psalm 138 (139),

“Even the darkness is as light to Thee.”

 

When my beloved husband Steve died, I felt I could not go on. I was so alone. In an attempt to live with grief I went walking, walking endlessly by the sea. I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Santiago de Compostella. To others I was ‘coping’, the problem was that two and a half years after Steve’s death, I was replaying the last hours of his life – his death throes – over and over in my head. I could not go on in this waking nightmare. Help was needed. But I knew it had to be in a safe Christian setting. In 2004,although Catholic, I had made my oblation at Malling Abbey; that beautiful place with a beautiful community. My wonderful Oblate Sister mentioned that Minster Abbey gave bereavement retreats.

 

So it was I found my way to this ancient Saxon Abbey, with its loving, all-embracing community and glorious June garden. Even the Minster flock of sheep met us later. The retreat was led by a Sister, an Oblate and a trained counsellor, with Jesus the Good Shepherd, watching over us. It helped to share in the painful journeys others had trod, interspersed with prayer, meditation and slides.

 

Joining in the Office, Mass and meals together, bonded us as a group. I had been unable to cry. In Minster my tears flowed. The counsellor diagnosed I was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, and gave me techniques to move beyond this tortuous state of mind. An unexpected Angel Walk followed the counselling session. We were asked to close our eyes and simply Trust. I felt the lightest of angel touches, softly feathering as I was led through an avenue of wings, into enfolding arms that held me close. The arms of the Eternal Mother rocking us to the bottom of our dreams, the arms of Mother God?

 

Then a transformative experience. In some place/space, other, I found myself in the presence of millions of souls in the perfection of Oneness. My beloved Steve was there: not near, not far, the luminous light was Unending Love Itself. Later, I tried to explain the inexpressible to myself. Was it an altered State of Consciousness? Was it Ekstasis? All I know, in the deepest part of my being is, I was myself, but beyond myself; gathered up into an outer circling dance of light of the living God, in our eternal home.

 

The Lord has ‘eastered’ in me, lifted me out of the depths of grief into a renewal of my whole life in him, in ways I could not have foretold.

 

Thank you Minster. Thank you God.

 

Caroline Stevens Oblate of Minster Abbey

 

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