Back to June-December 2004
Summary of a talk by Dafyudd Jones prepared, with Dafydd's approval, by Peter Brooke
Dafydd began by telling the story of the umbrella stands in the enormous, austere revivalist chapel he used to attend - three times on a Sunday - during his childhood in Swansea. These umbrella stands at the end of each pew had always impressed him with their air of solid, Bible-black solemnity. Many years later, when the church was being demolished, he could not resist the temptation to unscrew one of them and take it home as a souvenir. When he did so he noticed a flash of gold under the black. A bit of assiduous polishing and he discovered that black was not its natural colour after all. It was in fact made of brass, and its natural colour was the colour of burnished gold.
Dafydd took this as an allegory of the present state of Christianity. After many years lying under the accumulated - and rather imposing - grime of the centuries, it was beginning to appear again in its natural, radiant, colour.
He saw two developments that had helped to bring this about. One was the enormous amount of scholarly research that had gone into the study of the Bible in general and the New Testament in particular. The other was the fact that Christians in the West were beginning to discover, or rediscover, the traditions of Eastern Christianity, of the Orthodox tradition.
Although these were two very different movements they both had the effect of emphasising the crucial moment in Christianity which was not - whatever Mel Gibson might think - the Crucifixion, but the Resurrection. The New Testament studies could not prove that the Resurrection had actually happened; but they had shown its importance for the early Church. This was what distinguished Christianity from every thing that had gone before, and enabled a small despised sect to withstand all persecution and eventually become a great world religion.
Easter, however, had given way to Christmas in the West as the major Christian festival and many Western Christians hardly even knew that they went to church on a Sunday because Sunday is the day of the Resurrection. Not so in the Orthodox Church, where Easter is unmistakeably the central event in the church calendar, and every Sunday is celebrated as a little Easter in itself.
What, then, was the importance of the Resurrection?
Dafydd began by considering the Baptism of Christ - called the 'Theophany', or 'revelation of God', in Orthodoxy. When Jesus was baptised in the Jordan at the very beginning of His ministry, the Heavens opened and a dove descended. This marked a radical new beginning in the relations between God and man.
Previously it had been thought that there was a great gulf fixed between the two. The heavens - the sky - was seen as a 'firmament' which was solid (Dafydd likened it to an upside down pudding bowl) and God lived above it. But the heavens opening and a dove descending meant this barrier between God and man no longer existed. Man had access to God and God had access to man in a way that had never before been possible.
This was the good news that Jesus taught, but it marked such a radical change in old habits and old modes of worship that it naturally excited enormous opposition which, eventually, took the form of the Crucifixion. The Crucifixion took place near the municipal rubbish dump of Jerusalem which was often where the bodies of those who had been crucified were thrown. It was intended as a demonstration that this new doctrine, this new openness between man and God, was rubbish; and it must have been easy for the disciples at that moment to lose heart and believe they had been led astray.
Any such fears and doubts were, however, completely dispelled by the Resurrection which was received as proof that Jesus' teaching was true. From now on the heavens really were open and the gulf separating man and God was closed.
Dafydd punctuated his presentation with a number of readings from scripture and these may be accessed here.