Bolton Abbey Parish Magazine
To Easter and Beyond
Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.
Imagine a seventeenth century alchemist drying (‘calcining’) a very ordinary substance to a desiccated powder in the hope of
transforming it to gold. This is the image that George Herbert uses in his poem Easter: the dust to which our mortal bodies must return is
radically transformed by the new life into which Jesus rose on the first Easter morning. In keeping with the image drawn from alchemy,
Herbert first describes this new life as being like a transformation into gold, the most precious substance known to humans (and the goal of
all alchemists). But Herbert immediately shifts the focus of the reader. The new life of Christ’s resurrection offers something
infinitely more precious than gold: it offers us the opportunity to be ‘just’; that is, to be put right with God, to have our lives fully aligned
with God’s loving purposes for us.
With the coming of the Enlightenment came the realisation that alchemy was nothing more than a pseudo-science. But the Easter
faith that first inspired Herbert’s poem is the same faith that we continue to celebrate four hundred years later: faith that the
helplessness of Good Friday and the emptiness of Holy Saturday are put behind us; and faith in the risen Jesus, who takes us by the hand
and walks with us into the resurrection life of God’s eternal Eastertide.
May God bless us all richly this Eastertide,