Easter has long been a milestone in Irish calendars. It’s a definitive turning point in the year; a time to think about gardening and the outdoors, stepping up at sporting events and maybe taking the first trip away from home of the year.
It was and is the most important celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Christian churches. Even in an increasingly secular society, this has a major impact on ordinary people. The fact that the festival coincides with the blooming of spring growth has always given it a touch of hope for the fainthearted. The lengthening evening light is a boon to all men and women, and the return of the rapturous song of the birds gladdens the human heart.
Long associated with Ireland, poet Gerard Manley Hopkins captures the magic of this seasonal rebirth in his poem spring.
“Nothing is as beautiful as spring
When weeds in wheels shoot long and beautiful and lush
The eggs of thrush look like a little heaven, and thrush
It washes and wrings through the echoing wood.”
Hopkins had a keen eye for the changes in nature and an innovative way of writing to capture these sights and sounds. He took the time to be still, to observe and to think.
Perhaps many of us can use the free time offered to us this holiday weekend to do the same, for such stillness is soothing to the soul.
For many Irish people, Easter was also a time to reflect on the events of 1916 as the nation’s fortunes were being reshaped.
The years have also taught most of us to do this reflection with wisdom and a greater sense of inclusivity, knowing that no group lays claim to the full truth of our complex history, which is a mosaic of diverse stories.
We mark this Easter at a particularly difficult time that has followed other troubles. We had barely emerged from the economic crash, the effects of which lasted a decade, when the Covid-19 virus tied most of our lives in a black knot.
We barely had time to catch our breath or fully emerge from this complex catastrophe when we were faced with something few believed we would see again in our lifetime.
The war in Europe has suddenly brought us deplorable loss of life, massive human suffering and wanton destruction on a large scale.
Ireland is not at the forefront of this illegitimate Russian invasion of Ukraine. But the aftermath reminds us again of Leon Trotsky’s remorseful maxim: “You may not be interested in war – but war may very well be interested in you.”
The challenge of helping tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens who need our help and hospitality must be met. The spiraling cost of living and energy prices must also be managed by providing maximum support for the weakest in our society.
All of this is discouraging. But over many Easters past, the Irish faced greater challenges and survived and thrived. We will do that again.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/editorial/in-times-of-noise-and-strife-stillness-is-balm-to-the-soul-41562124.html In times of noise and strife, silence is balm for the soul