By The Very Revd Andrew Tremlett, Dean of Durham
Matthew 28: 1-10
Welcome to the Deanery in Durham Cathedral, the ancient lodgings of the Priors of Durham Abbey and since the Reformation, the home of the Dean.
What you have behind me is a 15th century image of the Resurrection and I want to lead our Eastertide reflection on it today.
It’s based on a passage of scripture from Matthew 28:1-10:
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
This part of the Deanery was formally a chapel, built in the 13th century – and the undercroft still houses the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which is regularly used for worship.
Like many churches, there were wall paintings to tell the stories of the Bible. This wall features stories about Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in whose honour – alongside Christ our Lord, and St Cuthbert – the Cathedral is named.
The picture speaks to us of scripture through the characters:
- There is Jesus rising triumphantly from the grave, a stone sarcophagus;
- There are the two soldiers, caught napping on while they should be on duty, a picture of how we as Christians can be caught napping, rather than being awake to what God is doing.
- And then there’s Mary in a moment of adoration, so different from her grief at the foot of the cross.
But perhaps the most interesting thing for me is that this picture was hidden for hundreds of years and only rediscovered in the 1970’s when a new entrance to the Deanery was created.
Until then, this was a living room, with sofas and chairs, a pleasant view out onto the garden. But blissfully unaware of the paintings that lay hidden behind a hessian screen.
And that, for me is the challenge of the Resurrection. Is it part of the Christian story we know so well that it fades from view, hidden and forgotten.
Or at this Eastertide, do we open our hearts once again to the risen Lord, who rises triumphant over death?
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!