We have lived in Cuba, as well as practically in the rest of the world, an atypical Holy Week, different, special, novel, unreleased, virtual… but above all intimate, deep, familiar, spiritual. preceded by a Lent, which gradually took the same cariz, and seconded to an Easter time in which we hope everything will return to “normality”.
It still seems to us a bad dream or the script of a fantasy film what we are living: that a tiny and microscopic virus has paralyzed the whole world in this way, causing a fact as unusual as unexpected in today’s society, so technified and globalized, causing a huge number of deaths in various regions of the planet and many questions, at different levels of thought, at different levels of thought , to which we try to respond.
An evil, an enemy, a pandemic from which we have not been spared arms, nor technology, nor current scientific research, nor economic power, let alone political power and its efficiency, which in several countries has been strongly called into question.
Suddenly everyone has felt the possibility of death as something real, close, indiscriminate; has taken a close sense of the breath of that final moment of existence that is so hard for us to think and accept. Through the media, so neat and accessible, we have heard of the deaths of famous and also unknown people, health personnel who have given their lives helping others, priests, law enforcement… and above all elderly, many elderly people, who have dramatically reached the last moment alone, even deprived of health resources for the benefit of other younger sick people, without the company of their loved ones, who have had to be incinerated or buried hastily, without rituals or flowers.
A virus that has put the world on its knees, as Cardinal Maradiaga said. On our knees, we could understand, in a double sense, humiliation and prayer. It is certainly a humiliation for the arrogant society in which we live, especially that of the supposedly developed world, to be confined and immobilized worldwide by a virus that has forced the world to stop looking at its navel and to glorage at its achievements, to remind us that we are ephemeral and contingent mud, well enough. And at the same time, on our knees, looking at our smallness, he’s pushing us to look high, at the Almighty. It is extraordinary, and I say this without irony, how in this circumstance faith is waking up or wasting. At least among my acquaintances are many, more or less believers or more or less practitioners, who have asked me for prayers, or have set out to pray and ask God, each in his own way, sincerely of heart, especially when they have sick someone close to them.
Someone said that, in extreme situations, the best and the worst emerge from the human being, the noblest, the sublime and the highest, and the most ruinous, selfish or even depraved. We’re looking at it. The second produces rejection and the irresponsibility and pettiness of some are deplorable. But in the face of this, the gestures of solidarity and charity of many, some frankly heroic, impress strongly these days. Suddenly stories of doctors, nurses, health workers, social services, law enforcement, priests, religious, volunteers who have risked everything to help the sick live, including contracting the disease and dying as a result, have leaped to the fore. And the need for people and jobs that are usually given very little relevance has been highlighted: farmers, carriers, sweepers, cleaning services, supplies, food store employees, etc. It’s like a great bath of realism: protecting human life and sustaining it comes first, the most important thing… maybe we’d forgotten.
Undoubtedly this pandemic, and forced seclusion, is helping us to reflect with pause, in a society in which the vertigo of everyday activities does not allow us, on what really matters; it is causing us to think of others, without prejudice or distinction, to grow in solidarity; to change our scale of values, to put people first than to things, sense and common interest without ideologies; It is leading us to the depths of ourselves, to the place where the meaning of life and the center of the person lies, to what sustains us or what transcends us, to God.
And all this in Lent, Easter and Easter… for the Western Christian world. It has certainly come to us as a ring to our finger so that we can see and live the moment from faith and trust in God the Father rich in mercy. There is nothing and no one who is not under The Watchful Eye of God. Yes, it is; and certainly from common sense and from faith, we must look at all this tragedy with positivity and hope. In the ancestral saying we find the sayings that “there is no harm that for good does not come” or “bad that a hundred years last”. In Cuba you also hear that “what happens, it suits”. St Paul says in the letter to the Romans that, “to those who love God, everything serves good for good”; for the believer in Christ everything is grace, everything is a gift, also misfortune.
The “stay at home” as a motto of social isolation, a basic method of prevention of contagion, also arrived in Cuba at the end of Lent, on the eve of Holy Week. We have had an end to Lent without penitential celebrations, spiritual retreats, or community or processional Viacrucis. with many meetings and meetings suspended. A Holy Week with closed churches, without the blessed guano of Palm Sunday, without processions or public prayers, without musical concerts, nor Monuments, nor footwash… that is, without everything that, year after year, we were used to seeing and participating. It seems as if, with this, we have been deprived of a right or a duty, of a need, of something vital to our faith.
However, the initiative of many priests and laity, many of them young people, has led the celebration of Mass and other religious and prayeral acts, such as the exhibition of the Most Holy, holy hour, the Rosary, the Viacrucis, while still being held in private, to reach the people of the community through the Internet or other means. Certainly in Cuba technological development and accessibility to the media is more limited than elsewhere, but they have not been stopped. Public television has been broadcasting Sunday Mass from the Copper Sanctuary and local radio stations, at various times, have offered the audience the messages of the respective bishops. The sound of bells at the time of the Angelus or at the time of closed-door celebrations continues to remind everyone that, at that very hour, the priest is praying and offering the Eucharistic sacrifice for them. Also the bells, in some churches, have added to the applause in solidarity and grateful to those who sacrifice for others, particularly health workers.
The washing of the feet of the disciples of Holy Thursday, a gesture by which Jesus points us to the path of fraternal charity as a distinctive essential of our status as Christians, has been prolonged and projected into a multitude of gestures of solidarity and charity that the institution of Caritas in each country is developing, also in ours. It is no exaggeration to say that the Catholic Church these days is turning in the attention of many disadvantaged and discarded people of society, welcoming, offering accommodation, food and all kinds of attentions of first need. The multiple initiatives launched are countless.
Online we have also received many celebratory schemes to live Easter at home. It is early to know what real impact that has had, or how Holy Week has truly been celebrated and lived at home, in the family. But the truth is that this reality has pushed us to remember that the Church is not temples, but that each of us, by baptism, are Church, living temples from which to worship the living and true God in spirit and truth. And that every house, every home, can become a wonderful temple of the domestic church that is every Christian family.
In the Gospel of the third Sunday of Lent, Jesus reminded the Samaritan of the same thing: “The hour is coming, it is here, that those who want to worship true will worship the Father in spirit and truth, because the Father wants to be worshipped like this.” Perhaps that time has come… without a faith lived and celebrated deep in our hearts, in the silence of our cabins, in personal or family prayer, in the simplicity and simplicity of our homes, hardly community liturgical celebrations in our temples, more or less large or majestic, will be a living expression of faith and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, crucified and killed for our sins , resurrected and glorious, who has promised us to be with us always. This does not mean devaluing the public celebration of faith or that we must privatize the relationship with God or reduce it to the realm of each other’s consciousness, feelings, or subjectivity; rather it means making it grow inward in truth and authenticity, rooting it deep so that it may be more fruitful, so that when we pray with our lips we pray above all with our hearts.
If the pandemic is to provoke very serious reflections and changes in attitudes in today’s world at all levels – everyone says nothing will be the same from now on – this experience should also help us Christians deepen the experience of our faith and our relationship with Jesus Christ, so as not to reduce it to public worship or prayers , so as not to limit it to certain places or moments, to live the presence of God and his accompaniment at every moment, in the silence of hours and days, in contemplation of creation and in respect for nature, in the daily work sacrificed and well done, in deep respect for life and for others , in openness to the needs of the poorest or most disadvantaged, in constant debt to the truth, in the permanent feeling that God is always present where I am, when I work well and when I do not too.
If Easter means step… this is being, or should be, God’s step through our lives; if Easter means resurrection, this is to lead us to resurface in our daily life in a new and different way, deep, tempered, looking more authentically at people, giving just and balanced value to what occupies our time. How wonderful if a creature as tiny, small and even malignant as the virus, but creature at the end of the day, can push us to the highest, to the Greatest, to the most sublime, to God, Father of all, Creator of the universe and Lord of history. Happy Easter!