I am not an expert on the Corona Virus. I have tried to keep up with developments while on sabbatical and learn what I can. The only thing I have learned is that once I think I understand what is happening, things change rapidly. At the Redemptorist Renewal Center, our group has felt as if we have been living in a bubble, distant from Corona hysteria. That ended this morning when, during the petitions at Mass, it was made known that a parishioner's brother died from complications of this virus. Even in the safety of the Saguaro Desert, this pandemic continues to be indiscriminate in its impact.
At my home Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, measures are being taken to limit the spread of this virus. All programming and events have been canceled. The obligation to attend Sunday Mass has been lifted. To put it another way, what was once unthinkable just weeks ago is now our reality.
The sober mind tells me this will be a short lived reality - Let the virus run its course and, in a few weeks, we'll start complaining about politicians, arguing over who's going to win the World Series this year, and becoming consumed with our work once again. However, the heart inebriated with concern for my parish, family, and loved ones also acknowledges that we really don't know where this is going. When will we see "life as usual" again? In a different direction, that same heart that is on sabbatical to remove myself from "life as usual" makes me wonder, "Do we want to go back to 'life as usual?'" As we pray for the victims of this disease and all who will be called home by God with life threatening illnesses, let us ask God to teach us what we are to learn through this crisis and who we are to become when it ends.
When I have gone through the loss of a loved one, I often feel like "time stands still" in a not good sense, almost getting angry at the world as it continues to wiz by while my heart aches. I often wonder if a similar moment happened to Mary as her son hung on the cross on Good Friday. Did the world simply pass Jesus by in his suffering as the business that comes just before Sabbath was going on? Did anyone even stop and simply say, "That is some mother's child on that cross."
We live in that stillness and awareness as schools, business, and parishes are shutting down. Now... What will we do with the communal pause? Is it simply a pregnant pause before we begin our cultural sprint of meaningless productivity or in the Good Friday we are living will we see in the victims of this and many other diseases a call to allow time to stop more frequently out of love of those who suffer, of our friends, the stranger, and even those we hold grudges toward? Are we simply waiting for the light to turn from red to green so we can begin our mindless sprinting once again, worshiping the false god of productivity and objectifying those around us as mere speed bumps toward our consumerist goals?
I am not an expert on the Corona Virus. I don't know where this is going. And I don't know how you are receiving this reflection. All I know is I am living in an odd tension of wanting to end my sabbatical to try and "do something" about this crisis. In that moment, I enter prayer and the only answer that emerges is to stay in sabbatical. To borrow an oft used phrase, these are strange times we live to see. Will they be the best of times? Will they be the worst of times? Only time will tell.
What does this have to do with a Faith and Astronomy blog? Not much other than the fact that this crisis is on the minds and hearts of every person these days. I could talk to you about how I have learned Corona Virus is part of the SARS family of viruses and is considered "mild" in that family. At the same time, I don't know what that means and I don't know what to say about the science or the faith of this virus. All I know is that last night I went for a walk in the wash of Picture Rocks Canyon. Camera in hand, I was taking astrophotography and praying for my parishioners at St. Olaf, wondering if Holy Week was going to be canceled. As I was imaging the heavens, the exsultet, the chanted Easter proclamation that is sung on Holy Saturday, began to echo in my heart. In particular, I was moved to pray with the sections that spoke of the paradox of night that was as bright as day. Let us pray that the cultural night we have entered gives way to the light of new hope this coming Easter. And may all who die this day from Corona Virus, Flu, various forms of Cancer, War, and acts of terrorism be remembered with more than just a passing glance as we sprint between appointments. May we have a moment of reverential silence and prayer for those who have died. May God bring healing and calm to our world.
This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel's children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.
This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.
This is the night
that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.
This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.
Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!
This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.
The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
Lord, Bless those you will call home today through serious illness. Bless all those who suffer greatly whether it be illness, persecution, age, loneliness, and any other affliction. Thank you for loving us through these difficulties. And thank you for the dawn we await and will receive from your loving kindness. Dispel the night of our fear. Turn our night into day. Amen.