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Quasi modo

Easter 1 BCP

30 March 2008 11:00 | Fr. Roderick Leece

Continuing the French theme of this last week, when many of us were utterly bewitched beguiled and enchanted by Carla Bruni Sarkozy – the attractive and stylish end of the market you might say – today this low Sunday in France is called la Quasimodo. It was on this Sunday after Easter that a baby was found abandoned and given the same name in Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris. The hunch-back bell-ringer – possibly the unattractive end of the market – was so called after the ancient introit from the first letter of St. Peter. Quasimodo geniti infants Even as new-born babes long for the pure spiritual milk that by it you may grow up to salvation;

When Saint Paul said he had given milk, not solid food, to the church at Corinth, it was a rebuke. But reference to milk here points to babe-like innocence which is the effect of grace on the newly baptised. We celebrate this new life when little Ella Rose will be given new birth in holy baptism later on today.

Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo of course lived in the bell tower and only left Notre Dame Cathedral on two occasions. His life was lived mostly in a very confined and closed in space.

Opening up closed rooms is an essential component in the Easter story. There was first the closed tomb where the stone was rolled away. Then the doors of the upper room, the cenacle, were closed for fear of the Jews. The gifts the risen Lord brings are peace and forgiveness…no reproach or resentment. Human minds and hearts can be like closed tombs that harbour fear and uncertainty. Closed doors need to be opened up. And it is the presence of God - experienced as peace - that brings the confidence to open up.

The deep peace of Christ immediately banishes fear. Peace puts an end to anger about the present, and also anxiety about the future, and is a reassurance of God’s love and friendship. But with peace and forgiveness Jesus commands a response: do not be content with being mere converts…but become apostles. All are called and sent as apostles to share God’s peace and forgiveness and proclaim the truth of Christ risen and glorified.

Neither does the Lord hide his wounds. He shewed unto them his hands and his side. Quasimodo was born with extreme physical deformities…not least a hunch-back, and Hugo also describes a huge wart that covers his right eye. He hid from people’s sight for fear of repelling them.

I was very touched by the tragic story of Chantal Sebire from Dijon in France who was denied the legal right to die a fortnight ago and who died two days later of an overdose. She appeared on French TV so that all could see her severely disfiguring cancerous facial tumour as she begged for the right to die. She was courageous to be so honest and open.

Most people would wish to hide their wounds – indeed it seems to be a natural response to cut ourselves off from others when we are in pain. I guess this is a reminder that we retain our animal instincts that would hide vulnerability. No one wants a sore spot to be touched. We want it left alone. Whilst this is understandable – we know it is a mistake. We know that it is only by showing our wounds…by touching and being touched that we are healed.

Whenever we experience the presence of the risen Lord we know his peace and we know his forgiveness. This gives confidence to open up the locked doors of fear and guilt to his healing love. He shows his wounds…and though we might try to hide them…he of course already knows about ours. The gift of peace is given again and again, and the command: ‘as the Father has sent me, even so send I you’.
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