“Lead Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!”
are the opening lines of a poem written on the 16th June 1833 by John Henry Newman. The poem is titled “The pillar and the Cloud”. Newman was on an orange boat travelling from Sicily to Marseilles, France, and the sailing boat was becalmed for a week in the Straits of Bonifacio, between Sardinia and Corsica.
The words of the most recently canonized English saint are very apt as we celebrate the life giving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in Easter 2020.
The encircling gloom of anxiety, powerlessness and massive distruption to our lives caused by an invisible virus is affecting all of us on our small interdependent planet. The before and after of the present drama will be very different.
The gloom of our present situation echoes the gloom among the disciples after the crucifixion of Jesus. However, gloom and death are not the last word. In the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead God affirms and proclaims: “Love is more powerful than death.”
As we allow Easter joy to fill our hearts, and shout out our Alleluia, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, scatters seeds of hope in the heart of all who are open to receiving the gift.
Can I invite you to look around you this day and name the little lamps of love you see? Among them I note, the self-giving love of those caring for this sick; the neighbours helping the ‘cocooned’; the school principal ringing every family in her school to see how they are getting on.
In these days, let us not be frozen by fear as we practice social distancing. Rather, let us as Newman prayed, turn to the Lord and say: “Lead Thou me on! Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene – one step enough for me”
On this Easter day, I ask the Risen Lord to bless you and yours, and equip us all to beautify our world by the small acts of compassion and care that support human flourishing.
Fr Paul Taylor