When you meet your friend on the roadside or in the market-place,
let the spirit in you move your lips and direct your tongue. Let the voice within your voice speak to the ear of his ear;
For his soul will keep the truth of your heart as the taste of the wine is remembered.
When the colour is forgotten and the vessel is no more.
KAHLIL GIBRAN – The Prophet, 1923
I GREET YOU ALL THAT THIS Easter Tide – of a time of reflection and stillness for the Christian World as the life, death and resurrection of the Christ Jesus is remembered and celebrated. It is the biggest and most important feast of Christianity and yet it is no longer really acknowledged any more in England, certainly. Once again, I observe the phenomenon of everybody rushing to the supermarkets to stock up on food and wine as I do every year at Christmas in complete dismay, because there appears nothing solemn at all in the manic overeating and overspending that occurs whenever there is a religious festival and a bank holiday. The great relief is that the roads are free and the world slows down if only just briefly while everybody is eating and drinking themselves into oblivion.
I was saddened also to have missed the Good Friday service at my local Christian Church. I had assumed that the solemn high mass would have run through the time of Christ’s death of 3pm as it had always done, but when I arrived, the mass had taken place at 12.00; I assume so people could go home and eat and drink. The Christian Church door was locked at 3pm – arguably the most profound moment in Christian Belief, and it occurred to me that for those people who never enter a church except on special occasions to pay their respects or even just for a moment of stillness, that closed door would have ensured the occasional visitor would never return.
I always remember my father attending the Christian church during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, even though he was a Muslim who came to this country as a British Indian in 1944 during the Raj. He attended out of respect to my mother, and I recall vividly how he prayed privately and beautifully in silence in verses from the Koran, and how he tried to sing the Christian hymns without knowing the words because he loved the music and celebration. He never forgot hearing the monks sing Christmas Midnight Mass at Buckfast Abbey in the 1960s; he effused joy when reminded of it.
I do not believe that any form of prayer or attendance of a church service should be obligatory. We should do so because we ourselves wish to reach to a higher understanding and clear some mind-space for ourselves. If it is a chore, it becomes a bore and is meaningless to rattle off prayers learnt by rote unless there is true meaning from the heart. Prayers in any guise will not be heard if they are not meant. And prayers not meant will not be answered. Therefore nothing is achieved at all except a general waste of time of which we now have so little. Too often I have been in a sacred building and observed how many people did not want to be there – the hypocrisy was dismal. Then they should not have been there; the Divine magnetises the mortal to partake. If the polarity is not right, then it is not going to work. And if the Divine is not for you, then that is fine too. Let us all follow our inner wisdom and be allowed to partake of the sacred in our own way.
The poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran wrote in Arabic and was born near Mount Lebanon. He was a Christian. I like this excerpt from his famous book very much – particularly the last line – it has at least two interpretations.
In profound peace,
Photo by https://pixabay.com/en/users/kangbch-3007100/