Throughout Elizabeth’s long writing career, Easter is the time of year that receives the least attention. The minor Saints days with their muted chords and colours and the bells and joy of Christmas appear frequently. But the central tenant of the Christian faith she lived her life by, appears only twice.
Right at the beginning of her career, she wrote a short story entitled The Easter Bunny, in which one of her major themes appeared , that of the redemption and joy of the world that children can bring to the jaded lives of the adults around them. This was a subject she returned to again and again.
Later, towards the end of her life she wrote a poem Easter in the Ward. It concerned a dark time of pain and fear for her, as she had been hospitalised for an operation on her leg.
One of my most treasured possessions is a letter written by the author, Rosemary Sutcliffe to Elizabeth commiserating with her on her illness and wishing her a speedy recovery.
But none of her adult novels takes on Easter. In City of Bells, we learn of Felicity’s aunts dress code and how she takes on differing colours for the church festivals, but very little else.
In her Diary of Prayer, the Easter section starts with a poem by the 13th century Welsh poet and mystic, David ap Gwilym and celebrates a mass conducted by all the birds in a remote Welsh valley, not people in a church.
“My spirit was lapped in ecstasy: each word,
Word after word, thrilled through me like a deep
Rich music of a dream: not wholly asleep
Nor all awake was I, but, as it were
Tranced somewhere between one state and another,
All heavy thoughts that through the long day smother
Man’s heart and soul with weariness and care
Were gone, and in their place reigned pure delight”
It seems to me that the central core of her faith was too vast and mysteriously precious to Elizabeth to include in her works of fiction. A mystery that each must come to on their own terms, in their own way.
All of her works are about the redemption of her characters, they are all reborn in differing ways. But the tenant of Easter was never something she could trivialise, a part of her faith that was deeply personal. I think she saw life as a pilgrimage, a journey of the soul reaching for the love and understanding of God. The gift of Easter for her was the sacrifice made for the world’s redemption on the cross.
Wishing all of you the Peace and Joy of Easter.