UAL Chaplain William reflects on how the message of Easter convinces him more than ever that we will pull through this time of pandemic, and be better people for it…
Today is Maundy Thursday, an important day for Christians in the run up to the Easter weekend. The action and focus of this day is not around the Easter Bunny and chocolate eggs, but something altogether more sombre. The Last Supper, as it has become known, recalls the moment when Jesus gathered his friends around him to share in a meal before his public crucifixion. It will be remembered in many communities this evening, and is recorded in the gospels as a time filled with uncertainty, anticipation and dread. There is a sense in the hearts of those who gather that something is up, that something bad is about to happen. Perhaps some of us have been living with those feelings ourselves, just recently. But even at this ominous last supper, something good happens. Jesus gives a command – and this is where Maundy Thursday gets its name – the old latin word Mandatum, meaning ‘mandate’ or ‘new command’. The new command is a simple one – love one another.
Sometimes the business of loving one another is easier said than done, of course. But when Jesus tells his followers to love one another, he isn’t talking about a sentimental, gooey type of love, where we have to look at everyone through heart shaped, rose tinted glasses. This is more the love that transcends boundaries and divisions. The love that honours the dignity of each and every person. The love that we show through service to others, and through our willingness to decrease so that another may increase.
The days from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday involve gatherings in places of worship to recall the events leading up to the death of Jesus and his new life on Easter Day. The empty, tomb like church buildings of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday come to life with flowers, candles, bells and music over the Easter weekend with the message that we have passed through the dark times, into new and better days.
Except this year, of course, things will be different. Our places of worship are closed. Instead of walking across the park to my local church for these services, I will walk across my living room, open a lap top and join in through ‘Zoom’.
Of course, it’s not quite the same experience. After all, we rely so much on social interaction in the physical sense. It is hard not to be able to reach out and shake a hand, to be able to touch another person. This forced social distancing is very challenging indeed. But perhaps in this period we are also rediscovering the things that are really important: like time spent with those who are important to us – even if that can’t mean being in the same room; turning our attention to those around us who are in need; thinking about our food and the preciousness of the earth’s resources; finding new ways of connecting to each other.
Clearly, we are the sum of many parts, and there is more to our existence than just the physical connection. Indeed, that is part of the message of Easter. Easter reminds us that it is love, in all its many manifestations, that matters. It is love that conquers. Love is stronger than our broken hearts, stronger than our sick and ailing bodies. Easter reminds that, in the end, life will go on. Life will return, and that love is far greater than fear.
How to celebrate Easter in isolation
Share a meal – gathering together around food is an important part of life. On Sunday I will be trying out a zoom meal with family in Canada – the time zones will make this a different experience for sure! Why not see what you can pull together?
Decorate some eggs – this is a much-loved tradition in the Russian Orthodox church. Having a virtual Easter egg hunt too, on FaceTime for example, will bring different parts and generations of your family together.
Tune in to a service – on Easter Sunday there will be plenty on line https://artschaplaincy.net/prayer/
Give your home a Spring clean – churches are traditionally given a deep clean on Saturday in readiness for Easter Sunday. This could be a good time to make things ship-shape at home, ready for a fresh start.
Go to a concert – on line, of course. The famous Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli will live stream a concert from the deserted Duomo in Milan this Easter Sunday: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb4JB8-ZAeceuR7EPCPOPzg
Grow something – there are few things more satisfying and encouraging than watching something grow that you have looked after. You don’t even need a garden to do it, and here’s the proof: https://www.gardentech.com/blog/gardening-and-healthy-living/growing-food-from-kitchen-scraps
Meditate on the Stations of the Cross – with our Arts Chaplaincy Project now online at https://artschaplaincy.net/projects/stations-2020/ – and a new 15th Station appearing on Easter Day