April 12, 2020, 10 AM – There is no holiday reprieve in the Grim Reaper’s statistics: 532,339 cases of Covid-19 in the US (the highest in the world) with 21,418 deaths.
Today is Easter Sunday, and the Catholic Church, along with Christian churches around the world, are breaking ancient traditions by celebrating in chapels to cathedrals empty of parishioners. There is an irony in the digital transformation of centuries old churches led by celebrants, many of whom are not tech-savvy. The “great cloud of witnesses” described in Hebrews 12:1 has new meaning since churches have become reliant on “cloud” technology. Even as we are required to maintain social distancing, an article I read last week described a priest in New York who set up a shed outside of his church to which those needing to make confession could drive up to, approach a three-curtained window with a prominent cautionary sign stating “DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING” and confess their sins while standing at a distance from the priest inside. The buildings may be closed, but the churches remain open.
Grief needs to be shared. Yet during these disquieting times, all of our usual rituals involving death and dying have been altered or suspended. From those who are tragically kept physically separated from their loved ones during the dying process to those who can no longer find solace in the rituals of a wake or burial ceremony, there is added burden to the loss and pain we all face when someone we care about has died. One of our close friends lost her mother recently, and we share in her and her family’s hurt in not knowing when an appropriate service can be scheduled so we can all participate in the ceremony of remembering, honoring and consoling.
Now is a good time to remember the words of C.S. Lewis writing about Easter. “In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down, down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still…to the very roots and seabed of the Nature he created. But he goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him.”
The writer Gracy Olmstead observed of current world that “once churches finally come back together after this long absence, it may feel like a funeral. Perhaps that is what exactly it should feel like: None of us should move on too quickly from the pain of this season. There should be a time of collective mourning, of finally being able to hug each other and cry together. Until then, we will continue to feel like lepers, aching for human touch, waiting for community to be restored.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.