Don’t mistake tradition for sentimentality

The traditional Walk of Witness in Long Sutton in 2015.
The traditional Walk of Witness in Long Sutton in 2015.
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HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes

The celebration of Holy Week, culminating on Easter Day, is the most liturgically dramatic period in the Church’s year.

From the poignant depiction of the foot washing on Maundy Thursday, through the agony of Good Friday to the incomparable joy of the Resurrection, the annual 
retelling of the Easter story is an emotional and spiritual journey as resonant today as when it was first told millennia ago.

The foundations of service, of sacrifice, of redemption and salvation underpin the Christian faith just as in our country they have formed the basis of our common law and shared sense of the common good.

The season of Eastertide which began on Sunday and ends on Ascension Day, marks the end of Christ’s earthly life, but anyone who has ever lost a relative or good friend will know that death is far from the end of a person’s story of their influence.

Indeed, we often tend to reflect more clearly on our loved ones, following their example more sure-footedly once they are no longer mortally present.

This is precisely what TS Eliot emphasised when he wrote that “the communication / Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.” In less sophisticated terms, I said much the same last week in memory of my friend Rosemary Biggadike.

In the earliest editions of St Mark’s Gospel, the story of Jesus ends not with His Ascension, but with Mary Magdalene and the other women who discovered the empty tomb. This is telling and instructive. The story is unfinished; rather, Jesus’ story becomes the story of His followers, in whose footsteps Christians have been seeking to live ever since.

As a Conservative, I have a deep reverence for tradition. Those that misinterpret such an outlook as mere sentiment fail to see that seeking to honour the good work of our predecessors is the surest motive and means to deliver our own good works fit for our successors.

If we do not remain alive to what we can learn from our ancestors, we shall find it harder to set an example to our children.

As Edmund Burke wisely observed, a society takes many generations to form and in so doing “becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” In acknowledging that partnership, tradition nourishes the age-old spiritual desire to be part of something bigger than our ephemeral needs and desires.

Spring is a time for new beginnings, but also a time to reaffirm our commitment to our rich inheritance, whether from family, a good friend, from the continuity of our great institutions, or from Christ Himself.

I wish all my constituents a very peaceful, joy-filled, holy Easter.