Thirty-three days ago, when I decided to stick close to home (and just days before we were asked to shelter-in-place), the idea of hanging back, stepping out of the rush of life felt not only like a wise choice for my health, but also seasonally appropriate. For Catholics and other Christians, it was Lent; for others, it was before Easter; and for everyone else (in the northern hemisphere), it was the end of winter. As the pandemic spread, it felt, for many of us, like a natural time to hunker down, snuggle in, and contemplate what was to come.
And what was to come for us then, what we could see in our very near future, was the hope of new life, of spring, of salvation. At that point, we were willing to put in the time (and were even happy to finally have some time) to reflect, to dream, to prepare for better days ahead.
As a Catholic, I was all in. Lent became a time of prayer and reflection as it had never before been for me. I sought out daily live-streamed prayer opportunities like Mass, Lectio Divina, evening prayer — sometimes also joining in a Chaplet of Divine Mercy, as well. It felt good and natural to pray all day, especially when the whole world was joining in prayer for the same thing — an end to (or a solution for) this pandemic.
Then, crocuses and daffodils bloomed, we celebrated Jesus’s rising from the dead — Halleluiah! — and we’re all still at home. Neighbors are mowing their lawns, we’re walking more and enjoying the weather, but we can’t go out with friends. I’ll admit, too, that turning to formal prayer — especially joining in live-steam prayer forms —has nearly stopped for me.
I certainly wasn’t conscious of having any hope for our current situation pinned to Easter, but I guess I did. I’m not sure what I may have expected, because it sure wasn’t that we’d all be invited to emerge from our bunkers on Easter Monday; but I’m feeling more restless now than I did even last week. Sure, there’s the relentlessness of another day living in the same situation — and yes, my prayer life is significantly curtailed at the same time; but I think the incongruence of the world looking new and fresh outside, along with having just celebrated the joy of life eternal — I think the contradiction is too much for my primal brain, which thinks new season = new life = let’s go do something, then realizes that it’s not really wise to go much of anywhere.
But life does look different, even though my physical location isn’t changing much. Some of the meaning behind my Lenten spiritual practices has been incorporated into doing what I can do from home — tending to meals and housekeeping, contributing to our church and to other organizations we support (please, please, continue to do so if you are able), and sewing masks and scrub caps to donate. While my reflection time has taken on a new shape, a friend pointed out that a shift in focus doesn’t imply that meaning is lost, it just means seeing life with new eyes; and doesn’t that just sound like the whole point of the Easter message?