A feast of hope a necessity during this difficult time
A slow evolution toward the way Easter was celebrated around the world pre-pandemic is occurring this weekend as Christians here and beyond commemorate Jesus Christ’s victory over death but also try to abide by recommended COVID-19 safety measures. Last Easter was a virtual lockdown with most holiday church services and other related activities canceled.
For people of the Jewish faith, who, of course, also are living under the constraints that the coronavirus has wrought, this weekend brings to a close their annual Passover celebration, which began at sundown on March 27.
Passover commemorates Israelites’ liberation by God from slavery in ancient Egypt and their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses. It is celebrated with a feast called a seder, as well as by prayers, symbols, blessings and other religious-based observances and traditions handed down by generations over the centuries.
For Christians, who observed their most solemn day of the year on Good Friday, which commemorates the day Christ was crucified on Mount Calvary, Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday is a feast of hope.
Hope is a necessity of life at this difficult time when the coronavirus continues to sicken and kill thousands of people around the world each day.
During Easter 2016, Pope Francis reminded Catholics and non-Catholics alike that Easter is a “celebration of God’s mercy and a call to pray for and assist all who suffer.”
The importance of that message cannot be overstated this year, even as progress on the COVID-19 front is being made by way of the vaccines that have been developed.
In his 2016 message, the pope said the risen Jesus “makes us sharers of his immortal life and enables us to see with his eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence.”
This Easter it is important to ask whether people who have become careless with their actions and activities during this pandemic, thus endangering themselves and others, have intentionally abandoned the spirit of love and compassion about which Francis spoke.
Frustration over pandemic-related limitations is understandable, but recognizing one’s individual contribution and responsibility toward helping to end the health scourge should not be construed as optional.
Last year the Associated Press provided these descriptions of Easter 2020:
“Families who normally would attend morning Mass in their Easter best and later join friends for celebratory lunches hunkered down at home.
“At the Vatican, Francis processed into a largely empty St. Peter’s Basilica for Mass.
“Normally, St. Peter’s Square would be awash in fresh flowers for Easter … to underscore Easter’s message of life and rebirth following Christ’s crucifixion. This year, however, the cobblestoned piazza was bare.”
Some people become stressed during Easter preparations, but this year people should be content simply with the knowledge that the world seems to be on the way back from the horrific COVID-19 experience that has befallen it.
“However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads … and human persons have arisen time after time from situations that seemed doomed,” Francis once said.
As Easter is celebrated today, the hope that that message signifies is what is necessary this day and going forward.