Most blessed of all nights

Now we’ve reached Holy Week we’re at the tipping point of the Christian year.

The past six weeks of Lent have been a slowly ascending crescendo, but we still have more emotional journeying before entering the land beyond. On Palm Sunday we joined in the jubilation of the crowds as Jesus entered Jerusalem, waving our palm branches and shouting Hosanna. It was all going so well - but then our joy is utterly confounded. On Holy Thursday there is a terrible sense of foreboding as we read St John’s vivid account of the Last Supper, the washing the feet, and Jesus’s powerful leave-taking. We follow Jesus’ abandonment in the garden; his fake trial; the terrifying vengeance of the mob; his appalling torture; his lonely death on the cross. We leave Good Friday feeling totally bereft. Why did this have to happen?

The answer lies in what happens next. As he was about to be crucified Jesus prayed to the Father ‘Forgive them for they know not what they do’. His willing death at our hands is the ultimate sacrifice - everything that is rotten and evil in human nature has been thrown at him. He knows that our heavenly father, who is love itself, cannot fail to respond to his prayer and forgive us. And to prove this has happened Jesus is raised from the dead, his earthly body now glorified. Death, sin and evil have been conquered – life, truth and light will reign for ever.

At a crucial point in the glorious liturgy of the Easter Vigil the cantor sings the most wonderful hymn in the whole repertory, the Exultet, every word of which echoes our faith which has now been completely vindicated: ‘O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, / Which gained for us so great a Redeemer ! / Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God / to see Christ rising from the dead!’

James Lomax

St Joseph’s, Wetherby