The world is hurting right now. People need hope right now.
Home for the holiday takes on a whole new meaning this year. We commonly associate the phrase home for the holiday as a celebration among friends, family and even close neighbors. The phrase evokes a warm, comforting feeling of nostalgia as we recall good food, fellowship and fun. This year though, no one could have ever predicted that this Easter season–our most sacred holiday–the day intended for community, worship and celebration, would be solely experienced within the confines of our own homes. Home for the holiday this Easter literally means being home individually worshipping our risen Savior and participating in Holy mass through our electronic devices.
With many places of worship limiting gathering sizes or altogether prohibiting in person services, churches are struggling to stay connected with their parishioners, and scrambling to use technology to keep the church body connected and engaged. The Israeli government has placed restrictions on all houses of worship in the Holy Land, allowing them to remain open only for private prayer with fewer than ten people present. Police are stationed outside churches to enforce these restrictions. To counter some of these regulations, the Franciscans are now providing access to the Holy mass through the internet every day from the Church of St. Joseph in Nazareth. Sadly, from a recent decree from the Vatican, Palm Sunday and Holy Week along with Easter services will not be open to the public, and only televised or available on the internet. It is indeed a sad day for all of us not to worship publicly during the Holy Season of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
When we think about the resurrection, we contemplate the most important event to occur in the history of Christianity. We don’t think about restrictions, or a police presence at our place of worship. Easter is a time when Christians across the globe join together to celebrate our Savior’s victory over death. Christianity is by nature a social faith, represented in communities that share this faith through their daily lives. Christians place a high value on presence, both the presence of God with us and a physical presence with one another. There is nothing greater for the body of Christ to be able to share the entirety of their presence and undivided attention together.
As stressful as these times are, the Christian community has a great opportunity to re-discover who we are in Christ and to look for new, creative ways to get even more connected with our fellow brothers and sisters. This time of social distancing allows churches to reflect on questions like: “What is the church? Is it the place of worship, or a gathering, or a community? What is worship? How can we use technology to experience new ways to worship?”
Although we are celebrating this holy day without the physical presence of our church community as tradition dictates, we enter a newfound space of connection; and we must open our hearts and minds to practicing and learning to grow as a virtual religious community. This Easter is an opportune time in history for the body of Christ to unite us in solidarity and uplift one another. The world is hurting right now. People need hope right now. This is a time for believers around the globe to fight to stay connected. The decisions we make now will shape us not only during this time of crisis, but will extend way beyond. May a time of selflessness emerge, where our priority becomes truly putting others first. May this Easter season teach us to learn to cultivate a spirit that defines who we are as Christians.
Our prayer is that you can experience the promise of His light at the end of a dark tunnel because God never disappoints. May this Easter bring you new hope knowing that it is only through Him, with Him and in Him that we are fulfilled. And, may your Home for the Holiday experience this Easter be filled with new and purposeful connection with friends and family, and ultimately Christ in ways we could have never imagined before. Amen.