I had to look twice when one of our Sisters sent me a picture of their chapel decorated for this past Palm Sunday. The first detail I noticed were the shepherds from the Christmas crib. I was puzzled. Shepherds? On closer inspection, I realised that they were stripped of their usual nativity role and were here symbolising the crowds, full of expectation as Jesus entered Jerusalem. It was a very clever idea because the figurines bridged the physical gap between the palm procession which could only be watched on a screen and the well-spread out congregation of Sisters in the convent chapel. Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. It is also one of the Muses of creativity.
We can see previously unimagined creativity and ingenuity, not only in liturgy but on all levels of our society at this moment of deepest crisis: neighbourhoods in lockdown joined in a game of bingo from their apartment block balconies, children drawing pictures to brighten the day of elderly people cocooned in nursing homes, and F1 teams redirecting their expertise from perfecting engines to developing breathing devices. The heartening reality is that these few examples of hands-on gestures of help are multiplied almost ad infinitum.
Yet, we experience painfully the limits of human creativity. To date, we have no vaccine or treatment for this deadly virus. Every night, we sit in front of the television, anxiously witnessing the ever-rising numbers of new infections and deaths. More and more of us can put names to the anonymous figures, see among them the faces of family members, friends or colleagues. We are pained by watching health-care personnel stretched beyond their limits, the psychological strain of being socially isolated, the increase of instances of domestic violence, knowing that children go hungry without school meals, and the uncertain economic future for individual entrepreneurs, employees and indeed whole nations. We have no idea how long this situation will last nor of the long-term consequences for all of us caught up in it. For so many, this Easter Sunday may well feel like an eternal Good Friday.
Is there any way at all that the Easter message can reach us? Many commentators and theologians have likened Easter 2020 to the first Easter: The disciples had locked themselves in the upper room, scared of a deadly threat from the outside world. They were mourning their master and friend whom they saw choking upon the cross, lonely and abandoned. With him their future had died. And then the risen Christ burst through their bolted doors.
Let us not give up hope that God will surprise us even today. Let us take courage from the story of the disciples who went to the tomb expecting death and instead finding life. Let us realise that behind all human ingenuity is God’s infinitely greater creativity. Let us trust that our God is a God of new beginnings.
Sr Sabine Schratz OP
Image by Sr. Dorothy Callanan OP