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A BEACON OF LIGHT
View from the Lantern – April 2023
This article was written by The Revd Canon Clare MacLaren, Canon for Music and Liturgy
One of the highlights of the Cathedral’s Easter Services, for me, is not the “View from the Lantern” but the “View from the Castle” as the sun rises on Easter Morning! Having risen at a ridiculously early hour, it is really special to arrive at Newcastle’s atmospheric Castle Keep, and gather with other sleepy but expectant worshippers – and our long-suffering choir – within the pre-dawn darkness of those ancient walls. By candlelight, we hear read the stories of God’s saving faithfulness through the ages – the Creation and Fall; the Passover and rescue from Egypt; the promises of salvation made through the prophets before the coming of Christ…
Then, as the choir sings a chant – “Wait for the Lord, his day is near…” – we slowly and carefully follow them up the wide, worn, stone steps of the spiral staircase that leads to the roof of the Castle, and emerge, blinking, out into the first-light of Easter Day! Wind and weather permitting, we light the Easter Fire and bless its flames, marking our brand new Paschal Candle with the sign of the Cross, before we light it from the Fire, and renew our baptismal vows together.
The climax of the service has to be the joyful reading of the resurrection Gospel which follows – to which we respond with a heartfelt: “Alleluia! Christ is risen!! He is risen indeed! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!!” Our first Alleluias since the beginning of the solemn season of Lent. We made it! Not just to the top of the Castle – but through the anguish of Holy Week. Not just through the abandonment of Christ’s death on the Cross – but to the glorious hope and joy of Resurrection! As the suns rays pierce the low cloud of an April morning, we sing with full hearts and voices: “Thine be the Glory, risen, conquering Son! Endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won!!”
There is something extraordinarily powerful about singing of Jesus victory over death, not within the sheltered walls of the Cathedral, but from the top of a fortress keep, looking down in every direction over the World and the people for whom he died. To North, South, East and West – the Sunday slumberers – the shift workers – the habitual early risers – the chocolate-coated children tucking in to their third crème egg… He is risen for them too – whether they are aware of it or not. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” The sun that rises over the faithful on Easter morning rises also over those who do not know or love him. Its warmth warms saint and sinner alike. God’s grace will not be denied. It always feels like such a huge privilege to pray over our city and region: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!! For you. And you… and you… and you…
I know that many of us will have opportunity to attend Dawn Services across the Diocese on Easter Day – often organised ecumenically, of course. If you haven’t ever attended one, I would urge you to give it a go! You may not feel it as you crawl out of bed at “silly o’clock” to get there – but the effort is certain to be worth it!
And if you don’t have a local service to attend, why not join us at the Castle Keep? We gather there this year at 5.45am on Easter Morning. Wrap up warm. Wear “sensible shoes”. And join us for a hot breakfast back at the Cathedral afterwards!