Straight after Easter Sunday, Jo and I disappeared for several days’ break staying with some good friends down in Warwickshire. On our last night there, we went out for a curry. We don’t eat meat, so Jo had a vegetable dish, and I had a fish dish. It was delicious: an unlikely mix of cod and tuna and prawns, prepared with fenugreek and ginger and a blend of spices. In the centre of the table there was a plate of enormous naans, and we hungrily tore off piece after piece to scoop up mouthful after mouthful. We ate too much, and went to bed too soon after, and slept terribly as a result. But it was so good to be together. We had spent the previous days eating and drinking and sitting round reading books and exploring elegant towns and walking their dogs around pretty villages and catching up with one another’s news and giving one another space to not have to entertain or engage socially. The following morning, we would get up early for the first time in days, go out and run the nearest parkrun, and then spend the next several hours driving home in sweaty lycra. I can’t think of a better way to observe the Octave of Easter, the first eight of the Fifty Great Days of Eastertide.
Several of the disciples had gone out all night, fishing on the lake. And at dawn, Jesus stood on the shore and called to them, “Little children, do you have any fish relish (prosphagion)?” That is, do you have the kind of fish dish that is eaten with flatbread? And they reply, “No.” They have no fish relish with them. So Jesus calls out again, and tells them to cast their net on the right hand side of the boat, and that they will discover something, perhaps unexpected. They don’t discover any fish relish—that really would be unexpected. Instead, the net fills up with fish (ichthyōn) and what is unexpected is the sheer number of them. But then Simon Peter does something very unexpected: he pulls on his cloak and casts himself into the sea. And when they reach the shore, they find that Jesus has made a charcoal fire and prepared bread and was cooking it along with some fish he already had with him.
It is such a strange and beautiful story. Jesus, making breakfast for his friends—as my friend Andy had poached us eggs for breakfast as we sat in his kitchen. Constructing a fire—as my friend Andy had made in his firepit as we sat round, and he cooked for us on the barbeque. Simple things, with his hands. This is, surely, occupational therapy, learning how to use hands that now have holes punctured through them—how do you knead bread when the tendons of your fingers are torn in two? This is rehabilitation after the trauma of torture and death, not to mention the trauma of resurrection, just as much as the boys going fishing is rehabilitation after the trauma of seeing Jesus go to his death, and come back again. This takes time, and, it turns out, a little fish relish. That is why we take Fifty days over Easter, not just one ta-dah! day (glorious though it is).
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