Easter special: how forgiveness was forgotten

36 min listen

This week: how forgiveness was forgotten, why the secular tide might be turning, and looking for romance at the British museum.  Up first: The case of Frank Hester points to something deep going on in our culture, writes Douglas Murray in the magazine this week. ‘We have never had to deal with anything like this before. Any mistake can rear up in front of you again – whether five years later (as with Hester) or decades on.’ American lawyer and author of Cancel Culture: the latest attack on free speech, Alan Dershowitz, joins the podcast to discuss whether forgiveness has been forgotten. (02:11) Then: Will and Lara take us through some

Olivia Potts

How to find the perfect Easter egg

I unironically love Easter eggs. I love the posh, fancy ones, the high street ones, the budget ones. From the sublime to the ridiculous, I have time and space in my heart for all of them. My husband is sick of hearing my grand theory that Easter egg chocolate is, in fact, the best of all chocolate, probably because the theory really only extends to the fact that Easter egg chocolate is thinner and snappier than that of chocolate bars. When it comes to trends this year, we’re seeing more Russian doll-style eggs (which rose in popularity last year), which as well as being visually impressive mean a variety of

The three most radical words Jesus said

Some Jewish friends recently asked me: ‘What is Good Friday?’ At first, they said, they had thought it was so called because of the peace agreement signed in Northern Ireland in 1998. Then they had learnt that it was a Christian thing, but they weren’t sure what. They wanted to know why it was ‘Good’. This put me to the test. You cannot explain anything about Christianity without paradox. It was Good, I hazarded, because it was bad: Jesus had to die to rise. My friends were scrupulously polite, but I thought I detected increasing perplexity. Many films of Christ’s Passion have been made, but all from a more or

Don’t tell them but the French didn’t in fact invent etiquette

When dining in France, it is considered rude to finish the bread before the main course has been served, and ruder still to slice the bread with a knife, lest the crumbs land in a lady’s décolletage. In China, you should never place your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice, and in Bangladesh you may eat with your fingers, but should avoid getting sauce above the knuckles. If you are guilty of any of the above, may I direct you, politely, to a new documentary on the World Service. The programme takes aim at many outdated traditions (including those that resign women to the kitchen), but the conversation is

The secret of perfect chocolate brownies: use a hairdryer!

I’m standing in my kitchen aiming a hairdryer at a pan of uncooked brownie batter and feeling like I might have finally lost my mind. I’ve done a lot of strange things in pursuit of recipe perfection, but even for me, this is an odd one. Brownies are a funny old beast. We think of them as quite straightforward, both in the making and in the eating. But actually, that’s not fair. There are countless variables which can produce anything from a dry chocolate cake to uncooked fudge. And – more importantly – for a glorified traybake, they’re pretty damn expensive to make. A whole pat of butter, lots of

Did Jesus visit Cornwall?

I remember the ephemera at the back of St Barnabas. The church stands in Oxford’s suburb of Jericho, near the University Press. It had proper church clutter: stumps of candles, dogeared pamphlets and reminders of long gone diocesan initiatives. St Barnabas – a beautiful Italianate monstrosity, plonked by the high Victorians, with their classic tact, amid a cluster of crabby little houses, once slums but now worth millions – is good at collecting this stuff. In the sacristy is a vestment made from the coronation hangings of Tsar Nicholas II, smuggled out of Petrograd at the revolution; now the double-headed eagle peeps through the incense, delighting porters, dons and motor

Simnel vs colomba: which is the best cake for Easter?

When it comes to Easter cake, there are two possibilities. From the home front, there’s simnel cake, which has 11 marzipan balls on the top – one for each of the apostles, apart from bad Judas. Or there’s colomba, the Italian dove-shaped panettone-style cake, with all its symbolic resonances. Not that the colomba actually looks like a dove, unless you try very hard – more like a cross with round ends (the wings and tail) and a wonky top (the head). Anyway, that’s the idea.  So, which is the more perfect? Simnel cake is a lightly spiced and fruited cake, with marzipan in the middle as well as on the

What’s the truth about John’s Gospel?

Veteran actor David Suchet is no stranger to Biblical readings, but his new Westminster Abbey performance of John’s gospel carries a special poignancy. The combined power of his voice, the abbey’s acoustics, and the breathtaking interior, apt portions of which the camera captured in beautiful synchronicity with the reading, made for a richly resonant experience. And for Christians who are even now being harassed as they seek incarnated fellowship, the reminder that ‘the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’ is more timely than ever. Yet the gospel most beloved among laymen is also the most contested among scholars. For some, it is a uniquely illuminating, intimate piece of

The glory days of Central Park

I celebrate two Easters every year, the Catholic one and the Orthodox one, which means I get very drunk on two successive Sundays. Both days were spent with very good friends, which is a prerequisite at my age when under the influence. The Orthodox Resurrection ceremony at midnight in the cathedral was followed by a sumptuous Greek dinner at a gastronomic Hellenic restaurant, hosted by George and Lita Livanos, that ended around 3 a.m. Then it was time for a Southampton outing and yet another Greek lamb Easter lunch at Prince Pavlos’s not so humble seaside abode. And then it was time to hit the gym non-stop for the next

Monsignor Michael Nazir-Ali on his first Easter as a Catholic

22 min listen

My guest on this episode of Holy Smoke was an Anglican bishop for 37 years – one of the Church of England’s foremost scholars and its leading witness for persecuted Christians. He was also an evangelical who, as bishop of the ancient see of Rochester, ordained women priests. But, as of this month, his title is Monsignor. I am, of course, talking about the Pakistani-born Michael Nazir-Ali, whose decision to join the Ordinariate has come as an enormous, if surprising, boost to the fortunes of that small but dynamic organisation for ex-Anglicans set up by Pope Benedict XVI. This will be his first Easter not just as a monsignor –

William Moore

Easter traditions from around the world

You know where you are with Christmas. Trees, carols, nativity plays, holly and ivy, presents, mince pies, crackers, Dickens, It’s a Wonderful Life. Easter is the more important festival in religious terms, but it can’t compete with Christmas for sheer cultural and commercial dominance. In contrast to jolly Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny is aloof and, frankly, a bit weird. His (her?) origins are elusive. German Lutherans are probably to blame for the Easter Bunny, as for so much else. The concept of mythical ‘Easter hares’ laying eggs for children was first mentioned in 1682 by Georg Franck von Franckenau, a physician and botanist, but he gives no hint as

Melanie McDonagh

The best films about faith to watch this Easter

The best religious films aren’t always the obvious ones, featuring either clerics or bible stories (though there are some good movies of both kinds – and an awful lot of terrible ones). Rather, some of the best capture Christianity sideways, expressing the numinous or the fundamentals of faith through a human story or through a portrait of a way of life. This being Holy Week, when we’re right in the middle of The Greatest Story Ever Told (one to watch), it’s a good time to explore how film reflects religion, straight or infused. The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson, 2004 It’s hard to imagine how even Mel Gibson got

How do we celebrate Easter in the shadow of war?

This week has been Passiontide, which means lots of wonderful plainsong in the choir of Canterbury Cathedral as my predecessors sleep. Holy Week began on Sunday in the shadow of war, suffering, loss and pain. How do we celebrate the promise of everlasting life in such darkness? Good Friday is ‘good’ because on the cross we see the goodness of God in the middle of the mess of our own creation. Jesus refuses to answer his accusers on their terms, to use his own power to overcome by force, or to see others hurt – even those who hurt him. Jesus lays down his life for the sake of others.

This year’s best Easter eggs

Here to separate the good eggs from the great eggs, we’ve tasted the Easter treats from the UKs favourite retailers. The 2022 eggs range from the innovative to the slightly baffling but the good news is there’s great options here for every taste and budget. Autore Milk Chocolate Egg with Pistachios, £19.70 – Delicaro Upper crust food merchant Delicario is selling a selection of eggs made by Campaian cocoa ultras Autore Chocolate. This is the sort of website where you can buy Japanese beef that was pampered to death and special tuna fed exclusively on truffles (probably) so expectations are high. The thick, milk chocolate comes with a generous pebble-dashing

The joy of sticky toffee hot cross buns

When it comes to cooking, I make no secret of the fact that I’m something of a traditionalist: I like old-fashioned steamed puddings, I like the classic and the heritage. I like blancmange and rice pudding and suet. I am unashamedly unfashionable. I’m not sure whether I chose the Vintage Chef recipe writing life, or whether the Vintage Chef recipe writing life chose me. I just don’t see the point in reinventing the wheel, or injecting unusual flavours and twists just for the sake of it. But, as I look back through recipes I’ve written, Easter has always been my exception: hot cross bun ice cream sandwiches, hot cross bun

The joy and suffering of writing a book

Spring is coming. There was snow in the garden till last week, here in Canada, where I have been spending this strange winter. But today the sky is shining blue and the sunshine is soft and warm. I guess this is what Easter is really about. Rebirth. I have spent months without going farther than the corner food shop. Zoom winter. I have never been in the same few rooms for so long. And yet I have never been so much in touch with colleagues and friends from everywhere. I feel I have partially migrated into a semi-virtual reality. It is not too bad. It is relaxing. This week is

Which football teams are the biggest losers?

Mounting losses The England football team beat San Marino 5-0, taking to 56 the number of competitive games that the micro-nation has gone without a victory since 1990. Has any other football team exceeded this record?— In English league football, the record number of games without a win is 36, held jointly by Derby County (2007/08) and Macclesfield Town, who have achieved the feat twice, in 2012 and 2018.— San Marino, who have won one match, a friendly against Liechtenstein in 2004, can take heart from Fort William FC, which went 73 games without a win before hammering Nairn County 5-2 in a cup game in 2019. Big canals The

Toby Young

I’ve swapped booze for Pot Noodles

Along with many other people, I gave up drinking for the month of January and then resumed with gusto on 1 February. But my 13-year-old son Fred, the only Christian in my household, urged me to give it up again for Lent. ‘Why not keep me company?’ he asked, having decided to forego sugar. But he didn’t just demand I stop boozing. He’d spotted the fact that when I go through a teetotal phase I compensate by stuffing my face with nuts and chocolate, thereby piling on the pounds. So he insisted I give up all three for 40 days. At least, he told me it was 40 days. In

Sticky toffee hot cross buns: the ultimate Easter indulgence

When it comes to cooking, I make no secret of the fact that I’m something of a traditionalist: I like old-fashioned steamed puddings, I like the classic and the heritage. I like blancmange and rice pudding and suet. I am unashamedly unfashionable. I’m not sure whether I chose the Vintage Chef recipe writing life, or whether the Vintage Chef recipe writing life chose me. I just don’t see the point in reinventing the wheel, or injecting unusual flavours and twists just for the sake of it. But, as I look back through recipes I’ve written, Easter has always been my exception: hot cross bun ice cream sandwiches, hot cross bun

Letters: The ban on public worship has enabled more of us to experience spiritual riches

Divine works Sir: Luke Coppen writes that livestreamed services ‘lack the vital communal dimension of worship’ and ‘are, at times, excruciatingly dull’ (‘Risen again’, 11 April). I would beg to differ. Catholics, at least, have had the rare opportunity to tune in to some beautifully sung Latin Masses in the Extraordinary Form which they would otherwise struggle to attend. As a Hampshire resident, for example, I have greatly appreciated the Birmingham Oratory’s livestreams. When celebrated well, these Masses are divine works of art in themselves, but are also highly prayer-focused and God-centred, with the celebrant facing the same way as the congregation — towards the altar. If anything, this pandemic