EASTER: How Corona virus defined us
I don’t think any christian that worth the name would want us to bore him/her with the meaning of Easter in this discourse. But in case anyone cares, we can have a cursory look at what Easter epitomizes.
In a nutshell, let’s say that on Christmas, Jesus came with a mission, at Easter, he accomplished it.
The season which begins on Easter Sunday runs through expanded period of 50 days, culminating on Pentecost Sunday.
Lent prepared us for it, in a more special way, than Advent could prepare us for Christmas. Christmas season lasts barely 10 days including its octave, while Easter season spans across 50 uninterrupted days of celebrating the mystery of our redemption. The last week prior to Easter (holy week) is filled with intense sacred activities that instill sense of awe about this feast on those who participate in them: – Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday (Chrism Mass, and Mass of the last supper), the aliturgical day – Good Friday commemoration of the Lord’s passion (the greatest celebration of God’s mercy), Paschal Saturday vigil. All these shape our soul for the hallowed days of Easter.
But this year’s Easter was unique!
No elaborate Easter duty, no solemn activities of the holy week. Two major Archdioceses – Abuja and Lagos have their doors shut! Others operated in low-key, running skeletal observance of the salvation event, courtesy of the cryptic virus wrecking havoc across the length and breadth of the world.
Vatican city – that great and influential headquarters of christendom, having enforced the order itself led by example. Pope Francis in the counsel of his Curiae enjoined christians, pilgrims, tourists and workers to vacate the ancient city of christian heritage. St. Peter’s square was deserted, in such a way that the ever-booming faith centre became a shadow of itself.
Rome that was not built in a day, got emptied in a day!
The mother church declared that until the pandemic subsides, priests should only celebrate “Misa pro populo” – “Mass for the people, without the people (congregation) being physically present.” That is, from the comfort of their rooms, the faithfuls would receive the graces accruing from the Masses.
So, from Palm Sunday which introduces the holy week, it was obvious that we are in for an Easter of no, or reduced physical presence in the Lord’s passion.
The coming of Christ divided time and history into two distinct periods: Before Christ (BC) and Anno Domini (AD) which means “in the Year of the Lord.”
That shows we are is still in a good time! 2020 is still in the year of the Lord. The virus cannot turn the hand of time to navigate us back to the days of Ichabod (1Sam. 2:41).
At this juncture, permit me to digress a little, to draw illustration from other walks of life. Corona virus pandemic has thrown up so many things we never knew or appreciated about humanity.
For instance, it has shown how volatile some countries we thought were top-notch in terms of healthcare delivery actually are (China, Italy and the US).
They’re now beggerly!
The same way, it has exposed so many characters in the soccer world, with heated debates presently ongoing on whether or not players (especailly in EPL) will accept compulsory pay cut. Already, some players in French League 1 have declined and got sacked by the clubs. The mysterious virus has shown us the greed of some club owners as well as players with less generous hearts.
In the same vane, the christian world was not spared. The pandemic did implicate three categories of christians: the cosmetic christians, the lukewarm christians and the faithful christians.
- Christians with cosmetic spirituality are the ones who mistake enthusiasm for faith. They profess christianity just to impress the people and earn the honour of being born again, but their lives represent neither christ nor the teaching of his church. They dress well on Sundays, participate in church events as a show of piety. They are the ones who criticized the Church the most for observing the lockdown. It spoiled their show😀🤣
They myopically think that the Church subsists only in the physical buildings. Once the church is shut, they don’t know Christ again. They believe newspapers more than they believe the bible.😀😀😃
To these class of christians, the annual commemoration of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection for this year was fallow, unceremonious and unattended to. Covid-19 stole the show; Easter 2020 was ichabodized.
- The lukewarm christians are those that imbibe the Nichodemus spirituality (Jn. 3:1-4), the doubting Thomases. For fear of being tagged “holy nweje” they reduce themselves to nominal christians.
They were pleased with the stay-at-home order. After all, they have not been fans of the doctrine of mandatory Sunday worships. At least they are free from offerings, second collections, levies, launching etc, that burden their hearts 🤣😆😀
Sundays through out this period were used to attend to other secular matters. They may have known much about the Church teaching on Misa pro populo, but who cares?
They emphatically stress the concept of “Uka di n’ obi” out of proportion. They had doubt whether they can access the grace of the Masses from the enclave of their homes. In that doubt, like Nichodemus, they would wait for emperical evidence of the Lord’s passion before they could come out in the twilight of good Friday to participate in the solemn duties. And this they never had.
Therefore, to them, Lent and Easter of 2020 has come and gone. They are indifferent. The best among them may wear melancholic look, because the routine Easter duty was denied of them.
Fr. Ernest Chukwu Makata would later, on Holy Saturday console them saying: “It may look sad and disappointing not being together in the Church to shout Alleluia this Easter time. But that was exactly how the disciples felt on that 1st Holy Saturday ever. They were downcast, felt abandoned and fearful. However, when the day broke, their joy knew no bounds.”
- Then the third category: the faithful christians. These can be tagged the Pauline Christians. They believe like Apostle Paul that nothing can separate them from the Love of Christ, not even Covid-19 (Rm 8:35-38). And so in their heart, as advised by the self same Apostle of the nations, they decorated Altars, from where, they offered spiritual services connecting with their parish priests, and shared in the sufficient graces of the Misa pro populo (1Cor. 6:19; 2Cor. 12:9). They knew that this pandemic just brought the prophecy of Jn. 4:21-24, to practical fulfillment; that the days are here, when true worshippers will need neither Rome, nor Jerusalem, (nor physical church building) to worship God.
When the magisterium ordered lockdown on church buildings, they retreated to the church of their inner selves where they worshipped God in truth and spirit.
These Pauline Christians also knew that their family is a domestic church – “Ecclesia domestica.” Here the father serves as the priest, the mother as Catechist, and the children as congregation.
Before their family altar they had the daily readings, reflected on the its bearings, recited the daily rosary and concluded with prayers of spiritual communion.
In their phones and book shelves, they have both the soft and hard copies of the Daily Missal, manual of prayers for Sundays Without A Priest, Pieta prayers, etc. With these instruments, they maintained constant communion with the Church of Christ, and enjoyed the fruits of the solemn activities of Lent and Easter.
To them, 2020 solemnities of Easter was a success, and Christ is risen!
There is a fourth category, but they don’t really deserve our attention. These are the ones whose faith do not go deeper than their noses. They even leave the Catholic Church because they claim her mode of worship is dull, uninteresting, with boring rituals and archaic liturgy. To this class of christians, anything they don’t feel doesn’t exist. They seek crusade centers, adoration and prophetic grounds where God is worshipped in theatrics and gingered swaggers. Odumeje followers can relate. 😆😆😀🤣
They only believe in the sensual feeling of satisfaction after much shouting, jumping and clapping.
They don’t know that christian spirituality is not all about how one feels during or after worships. According to St. Francis De Sales, “It is a mistake on the part of christians to think that our service of God is less agreeable to His divine Majesty, when it is made without feeling, because our actions like roses which though they have more external grace, when they are fresh, yet give forth a sweeter and stronger scent when they are dry.”
Countless metabolic activities go on in our bodies each time we eat, we don’t feel any of it, yet we believe, and rightly too, that the food nourishes us.
But then, the people in this category detest Church service that doesn’t quench their thirst for rigorous and boisterous worship style, that will satiate their lust. These are Baal’s people (1Kings 18:27-28).😀😀🤣
The lessons of this period were enormous. But none is louder than the news that CHRIST is RISEN!
And St. Clement of Alexandria informed us that “HE has turned all our sunsets into sunrise.” He condescended so low to those whose sins he has forgiven to become a debtor himself by his promise.
Convid may persist as much as it can, but it can’t reduce the joy of Allelua people – the Easter children of Zion (Dan.3:17-18), for whether we are dead or alive, we are Christ’s, for in him we live, and move and hold our being (Acts 17:28).
“Et diligentibus Deum, omnia operandi, bonus est” – And all things work together for good, for them that love God (Rom. 8:28).
Happy Easter my people!
By: Eze Jude O.