A Moral Directive during the long season of “Coronatide”
Be the one who, when you walk in,
Blessing shifts to the one who needs it most.
Even if you’ve not been fed,
Traditionally, the seasons of Christmas and Easter have been called ‘Christmastide’ and ‘Eastertide.’ Evoking a season of twelve days at Christmas and 50 days at Easter, the seasons provide liturgical frameworks of observance lovingly cared for by Christian communities for most of two millennia.
This year most of Eastertide concluded under statewide stay at home orders, and the liturgical observance of that season was muted, relegated to electronic communications and live streamed worship. These past months of self-isolation and physical distancing during the pandemic have resulted in an altered experience of time. As its Twitter nickname implies, “Coronatide” has taken on an almost liturgical quality, reshaping our daily lives according to its own dictates. We’re on COVID-19 time now.
MacEwan University’s professor Sean Hannan recently suggested that “Coronatide’s” timeline operates by robbing each day of any special importance, since every quarantined block on the calendar seems just as meaningless as the next. You have probably heard of folks who cannot remember which day of the week it is, who are forgetful of appointments, or who bemoan the ‘sameness’ of each day in this period of embracing the state’s “safer at home” directives. Our Coronatide observance continues. Some have used the imagery of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day movie, in which the lead character is doomed to live the same day over and over.
Hannan asserts that the comparison to Groundhog Day is not quite right, that repeating similar actions on subsequent days is not the same as the superficial reliving of the very same day. Coronatide has a ‘living in the moment’ character, in which old patterns have changed, and the rhythm of life is less linear. When will we gather again in worship, like we used to gather? When will it be safe to put away the masks and the distancing? Will our children be able to resume ‘in classroom’ learning this fall? When will we have a vaccine that genuinely ushers in our post pandemic phase of re-entry? We simply do not know. Coronatide has taken our expectations of what is to come and sidelined them.
Marcus Aurelias, in his Meditations, famously directed, “Bear in mind that everyone lives only this present time.” That ‘infinite present’ is perhaps better understood during this season of Coronatide, when aspirations and expectations have been dashed and our sense of future is intricately bound with how we live in the present moment. That present moment can be enervating and debilitating. None of us want to get good at living in an age of pandemic.
However, wise voices from throughout the ages and the world’s traditions remind us to live well in the here and now, no matter the circumstance. “Be the one who, when you walk in, blessing shifts to the one who needs it most. Even if you’ve not been fed, be bread,” directed the 13th century Persian poet and mystic Rumi. Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” And, as we have heard in the Gospel lessons in recent weeks, Jesus consistently described the mission he entrusted to his followers to the mission he himself extended in the world, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, and preaching the Gospel by the way they lived among those with whom they sojourned.
Even during this extended season of Coronatide, we have an ethical imperative to touch the world with mercy, forgiveness, generosity and love. In such living we redeem this ‘infinite present’ and perhaps give shape to our future lives. The sameness of this time is punctuated with our discipleship as we seek to extend Jesus’ own servant ministry to others, even during our isolation. It is different during our Coronatide pilgrimage, but such discipleship will bring blessing, change and servant love to our sisters and brothers with whom we keep vigil during this most unusual season.
As we wait for this long coronavirus season to pass, wherever and however we gather, may we ponder this remarkable time of our prolonged vigil and seek to adhere to lifegiving ways of being in community with one another. Even now.
It remains a privilege to serve as one of your pastors.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Bob Linstrom