Elusive Easter's challenge to wider society



One of the abiding human challenges is to endure with gallantry prolonged hard times. It is enshrined in Australian memories of long years of drought that drive some off the land while others stay. More jocularly, it is reflected in the mixed pity and admiration accorded supporters who never give up on their unfailingly failing football team.

Etching of Jesus with crossBut the challenge is also felt in everyday, domestic experience. For year after year, for example, a man may spend his days caring for a wife with dementia long after she has ceased to recognise him.

To many the challenge to endurance comes from a public world in which small gains by humanity are overtaken by huge losses.

How can we keep pressing for better times when we rejoice that the Berlin Wall has been excised, only to see it metastasise in the walls of Israel, Europe and the United States?

Why bother about people who seek protection from persecution or about our natural environment when the small initiatives we take are overrun by a flood tide of brutality and cynicism? What hope of building harmony in society when the Paris bombings are followed by those of Brussels?

There are many ways of responding to this challenge. We may simply get on with things, without worrying about any larger meaning or lack of it. We may instead give up on our hopes and commitments, acknowledging that it is all too hard.

We may also deny the intractability of the situation in which we find ourselves, sunnily optimistic that all will be well. Or we can live like Cassandra, daily prophesying doom from the sidelines.

Because this challenge is universal, the Christian celebration of Easter is of wider interest. At its heart it is a meditation on personal and political catastrophe that seems final and ineluctable, and on how such things are to be approached.

The key to the Easter story lies in the relationship between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.


"At the heart of Easter is a meditation on personal and political catastrophe that seems final and ineluctable, and on how such things are to be approached."


Good Friday is heavy and intimidating, full of soldiers in barracks or escorting prisoners, of high officials passing judgment, of horrid sights and sounds of a man being flogged and hammered to a cross, and of dark experiences of betrayal and abandonment. It ends in darkness come early.

There is no escape from Good Friday — it is everybody's public and personal nightmare.

Easter Sunday is as light as a feather, full of sunlight, rumours arising, angel messages, an immoveable stone gently moved, a presence barely noticed, a welcome guest wafting through locked doors, a familiar figure on the beach, a movement of air that lifts despair.

Easter Sunday is not for nailing down. The joy, energy and hope it brings blow where they will.

Although Easter Sunday is so different from Good Friday, it does not cancel it out. The two days are wired together.

Easter Sunday does not flinch from the public brutality and corruption of Good Friday, and the ripping apart of a man's hopes, promises, friendships and self-respect. All these things took place and are written in stone.

But that is not all that is to be said. Something waits, light as air, which whips and hammers cannot smash, nor can betrayal and hatred crush. Even in the smashing and unravelling, God is present, turning chains to dust and desperation to hope.

On Easter Day the darkness of Good Friday is made translucent and life-bearing. Deadly earnestness yields to laughter.

For those who believe in the Christ of the Easter story, Easter Sunday remains elusive, and happily so. They cannot prove that Christ is risen, but may smell Resurrection in the air. They may live with death, abandonment and betrayal, feeling the darkness, but trust over the horizon in a dawning they can't see.

The challenge with which the Easter story deals faces us all, whatever we believe. We have to live through it with the resources that we have to hand. But the disposition commended in the Easter story is a blessing for anyone wanting to be constant in the face of personal loss and public regression.

It consists in recognising our world for what it is, finding a hope that goes beyond the clear evidence of what seems possible, and so responding with good spirit to whatever comes.


Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Easter



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Existing comments

What a fine piece of writing. That's the story, Andy, and I'm sticking to it (however shakily).

Pam | 23 March 2016  

Thank you, Andrew.Happy Easter.

John | 23 March 2016  

I am taken by Luke's Passion Narrative with its repetitive insistence 'This man is Innocent'. Pilate and the Centurion are adamant. The Centurion in Luke speaks with a different voice to Mark. I guess this begins in a point of Law and is a story about normal bastardry and the failure of the Law and of advocacy. About what must not happen. Is this passion already shot thru with Easter transformation? Yes to some extent. And the women are the 'watching witness'? Thanks for the address.

Ivan Head | 24 March 2016  

Thanks Andrew. This story has resonated for two millennia across so many societies. The greater the hardship and oppression the stronger the resonance

James Grover | 24 March 2016  

Andrew, beautiful,uplifting and heartfelt. Sincere thanks and a happy Easter to you. May your Easter eggs be filled with more delicious words for us to ponder.A group of primary aged school kids said to me this week. "I love Easter. Holidays from school and chocolate.". Aren't we blessed to believe in more.

Celia | 24 March 2016  

"to endure with gallantry prolonged hard times."... It is evident that it is not a coincidence that, at least in one translation, the only virtue that appears in both the 'Cardinal Virtues' and the 'Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit', is Fortitude. It does seem to characterise humans in general, that they are better at bearing up under difficulties than at avoiding being carried away by success and so losing touch with reality. Perhaps, to the saying, 'Life is a struggle', we should add, 'If we are lucky'; and thus become more accepting of whatever 'cross' we seem destined to bear.

Robert Liddy | 24 March 2016  

One of the great problems with many modern people, both supposedly Christian and unchurched, is that they don't realise that the triumph of Easter can penetrate anywhere. God's grace falls where it wills according to His Will which is beyond our ken. Easter is the supreme paradox. It is God's answer to the seeming defeat of the Crucifixion. There is indeed, a lesson, but it needs to be understood with the heart rather than the head. If you really understand Easter you can survive anything even ultimately thrive. I find the Orthodox seem to intuitively understand the Easter Joy better than Western Christians. Perhaps it is because they have suffered so much more. I would wish everyone Joy at Easter. God knows the 21st Century needs it.

Edward Fido | 24 March 2016  

I really appreciate the constantly insightful approach to whatever Andrew writes and the poetical form of the writing. Good sense well said!

Greg Barnes | 24 March 2016  

I read ES every day just so that occasionally there is a truly wonderful piece of writing like Andrew's today. Thanks mate. I guess the topic is pretty inspiring. You've done it proud Andrew.

Mike Bowden | 24 March 2016  

"the disposition commended in the Easter story is a blessing"... The Easter Story can be taken in two ways. It portrays, as fact, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and suggests, for us, the possibility of Eternal Life after death. Fr Hamilton chose his words carefully, steering clear of any material affirmations. Life after death can be understood spiritually, as illustrated by the saying:.. " To live on in the minds and hearts of others, is not to die". But believing in an after- life in a Paradise is a two edged sword. Although it detracts from behaving from devotion to God-alone, and prompts us to avoid harming others, and to embrace Goodness and Truth, it also promotes a degree of self-seeking that is inimical to love of God-alone. In extreme cases it can prompt self-seeking to acts that defy the express commands of God to love others as self, to be merciful and tolerant, and, as we have seen, can even encourage murdering of God's other children.

Robert Liddy | 24 March 2016  

Terrific Andy. Thanks yet again. (I hope you get this ......... one never knows these days). I wish I'd read your page before morning tea this morning. We spoke of the little Easter eggs on the table. Were they made with fair trade chocolate? And of the young people, not yet cold and cynical spruiking Green Peace on our Sydney Road corner. All the 'small gains' of which you speak. Let there be lots of them. Michael

Michael Herry | 24 March 2016  

"Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do". The message to all those apostate Christians who have abandoned the one who died on their behalf and who sadly fail to see the image of God in their fellow man.

Easter Bunny | 24 March 2016  

Thank you Andrew for your proclamation of hope in our present, hope that stretches out to all. Thank you for persistently proclaiming this hope.

Jan Tranter | 24 March 2016  

Thank you Fr Hamilton for this meditation. It put me in mind of some lines of Roy Campbell: Still out of hardship bred Spirits of power and beauty and delight, Have ever on such frugal pastures fed And loved to course with tempests through the night.

John Nicholson | 24 March 2016  

Your words are always helpful, Andrew. This time you have excelled yourself. Thank you. Such a luminous gift for these sacred days.

David Conolly | 24 March 2016  

I think there is something here of what has been called anthropological faith, a human 'given' which leads us to wager on what we think is worthwhile in life. The surviving followers of Jesus kept his kingdom (anthropological) faith alive, such was the power of his dying as his final commitment to the values he had lived. It reinforced their faith to keep on in his spirit, and at the least the Resurrection we still celebrate symbolises that those values Jesus lived are absolutely sealed. Nothing done in his spirit is lost. Come, Lord Jesus.

Noel McMaster | 24 March 2016  

A word of hope sorely needed everywhere - thank you.

Patricia Cebis | 24 March 2016  

Thank you Andy for your words of wisdom! Happy Easter!

Peter Sabatino | 24 March 2016  

Thank you for your enlightening reflection on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Happy Easter!

Patricia | 24 March 2016  

Thank you Fr Andrew. I had the privilege of being chaplain in a liver transplant unit where, during a transplant (in theatre), I bore witness to the Easter story. The patient, under anaesthetic, is placed on the operating table with arms outspread (like Christ on the cross). The liver is removed (a large organ ... therefore a large hole and emptying out) ... and a new liver is placed in that empty space. The lead doctor, after plying his craft, stands still and strokes the patient's new liver ... ever so gently ... until it turns from grey to a wondrous pink ... death into life ..... and to also humbly remember that another person has died for this miracle to occur. These are usually among the first words spoken by patients post surgery. "Trust over the horizon in a dawning they can't see". Indeed!

Mary Tehan | 24 March 2016  

Thank you Andrew - a truly holy spirit inspired article. I just pray that all unbelievers will have the opportunity to read your article too stirring up thoughts in their questioning minds.

Peggy Spencer | 24 March 2016  

a brilliant exposition of Easter conveyed by a writer whose flowing pen and moving insights must have been seized for the moment by the Holy Spirit - yes?

Brian Davies | 24 March 2016  

Thanks Andrew. We can't separate the CROSS from the GLORY - that is the EASTER STORY. The greatest on-going 'Easter' challenges of out time are POVERTY and CLIMATE CHANGE. As EASTER PEOPLE, we Christians need to carry the crosses that comes with seriously combating both of these inter-related issues. There is no excuse at the next election for voting for politicians who aren't taking serious action on these two issues, just as there is no excuse for taking serious personal action. Lt us not continue to crucify Christ.

Grant Allen | 27 March 2016  

Thank you Fr Hamilton, for reminding me that we are never alone at Easter, no matter where we are. Happy Easter.

Eveline Goy | 27 March 2016  


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