I AM writing to you at the moment in the Christian year when, as it were, we pause and look back on the richest cluster of such spiritual facts ever revealed to man. Paschal Time, to give its old name to the interval between Easter and Ascension, marks the end of the historical manifestation of the Word Incarnate, and the beginning of His hidden life within the Church. But the quality of that hidden life, in which as members of the Body of Christ we are all required to take part, is the quality which the historic life revealed. From the very beginning the Church has been sure that the series of events which were worked out to their inevitable end in the Holy Week sum up and express the deepest secrets of the relation of God to men.
That means, of course, that Christianity can never be merely a pleasant or consoling religion. It is a stern business. It is concerned with the salvation through sacrifice and love of a world in which, as we can all see now, evil and cruelty are rampant. Its supreme symbol is the Crucifix – the total and loving self-giving of man to the redeeming purposes of God.
Because we are all the children of God we all have our part to play in His redemptive plan; and the Church consists of those loving souls who have accepted this obligation, with all that it costs. Its members are all required to live, each in their own way, through the sufferings and self-abandonment of the Cross; as the only real contribution which they can make to the redemption of the world. Christians, like their Master, must be ready to accept the worst that evil and cruelty can do to them, and vanquish it by the power of love.
For if sacrifice, total self-giving to God’s mysterious purpose, is what is asked of us, His answer to that sacrifice is the gift of power. Easter and Whitsuntide complete the Christian Mystery by showing us first our Lord Himself and this His chosen apostles possessed of a new power – the power of the Spirit – which changed every situation in which they were placed. That supernatural power is still the inheritance of every Christian and our idea of Christianity is distorted and incomplete unless we rely on it. It is this power, and only this, which can bring in the new Christian society of which we hear so much. We ought to pray for it; expect it and trust it; and as we do this, we shall gradually become more and more sure of it.
- Letter to the Prayer Group, Eastertide, 1941; The Fruits of the Spirit