Given that Holy Week and Easter are about many superlative things – the heights of divine grace, the depths of human betrayal and cruelty – I will resist the urge to join in with making it a time of moaning (Easter eggs not having the word Easter on them etc.)
But I will indulge in a little tale of my search for tasteful, meaningful Easter cards. I have got to that stage in life where Easter cards seem like a good idea. I first spotted a pack of five in Ryman, so I bought one to demonstrate that shoppers want them. Standard stuff – generic rural church, pastel daffodils and butterflies and the like. I haven’t yet worked out who to give one to, but that’s not the point. Or it didn’t seem like the point when I bought them.
So, having not yet found an Easter card I felt like sending, I carried on my quest. I thought Waitrose would be a safe bet – none of the “no mention of Easter” going on there: they even stock the “Real Easter Egg” that comes with an illustrated version of the story. Indeed, next to a model-shaped customer whose thin gold heels were taller than my head*, crouched a double-sided rack of card designs.
But my quest was not over. Just because these were Easter cards doesn’t mean they were religious Easter cards. I wasn’t in the mood for bunnies, which accounted for about half the selection. On Waitrose’s website was one I hadn’t seen in store, of a cutesy spring lamb. Half way there – but the Lamb gets sacrificed (see Francisco Zurbarán’s Agnus Dei though that’s a bit heavy going) and reappears on a throne (too surreal?). And many people will be chomping on some for Easter lunch.
On my quest I also found I take against cards showing cut flowers, because they are no longer living and Easter is all about new life and being reconnected to the Creator. And I found I take against daffodils in a cut-out of a cross with too stubby arms, which was a bit too Songs of Praise. And against one showing the interior of a generic fusty old Anglican church, with some foliage wrapped around a pillar. Is this the best expression of the joy of all the heavens and creation on Easter morning that sin has been defeated and death conquered? Wait – it captures the view most likely to greet churchgoers this Sunday.
Then there’s what the cards say. What is meant by the “Easter wishes” that adorn some of the range? If these are wishes for shelves of bunnies that risk turning Waitrose into Watership Down, then my luck is in. Plenty of the cards express nebulous wishes like these with about as much religious insight as if I had designed a Diwali card after being given three tenuous symbols and told I could stick the word “wishes” after the festival name.
It’s true that we do lack an Easter greeting more profound than Happy Easter, apart from of course, “Alleluia! Christ is risen.” And “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!” But that is quite churchy and requires a duet partner. Maybe shops could sell a card that says the two lines when you open the card, but like a Renaissance choir has one voice come from one side of the card, and the other from the other. Niche appeal, I say.
Given that Easter has inspired some of the greatest art in Western civilisation and quite probably beyond, my two penn’orth is that galleries/cathedrals/Saudi and Russian collectors could give affordable permissions for mass reproductions of the Resurrection art they own, and that card manufacturers should launch a competition for contemporary religious artists to design accessible but stylish cards, abstract or otherwise. Perhaps without veering so far off the beaten track as the um, commendably challenging, Crucified Stormtrooper, could inspired artists not express the ultimate triumph of life over death, good over evil, innocence over guilt, humility over arrogance, in a way that gives hope today? Please?
*Only in Waitrose.