Lent in a Time of Coronavirus

Those who follow these things will know that we are approaching the mid-point of the Christian season of Lent, the forty days of self-examination that leads up to the highest and holiest festival of Easter. Traditionally our liturgical worship becomes more sparse, our psalms and readings focussing on our failure, sin and need for God. As the season begins, on Ash Wednesday, with the imposition of ashes upon the brow, we use the words, “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin, and be faithful to Christ.”

Dust, not just star-stuff, but the dust of the Earth, from which in the book of Genesis, the Lord God formed Adam, the archetypal First Man. And, of course, the Earth to which our mortal remains will be returned when the gift of breath and life is finally over.

And into the midst of this breaks a pandemic, COVID-19. A new strain of an otherwise known virus, to which we have no natural immunity, spreading world-wide. A stark and unpleasant reminder of our basic mortality. Yes, this is no Ebola, no Lassa Fever, but even with the comparatively low mortality rate, and the fear that rides with it; well, it concentrates the mind. How much control of our lives and fate do we really have? How much are we dependent upon the good will of others? Indeed, how much do we depend on luck, happenstance and coincidence? (And, perhaps too, how much do we take for granted the well-oiled, just-in-time, logistics model…)

In Lent, Christians are challenged to turn inward, to take stock, and from that point re-focus on our relationship with God, the divine. Maybe this year, rather more than normal, this spiritual, emotional, internal examination takes on not just a greater personal resonance, but could be offered out, into the wider community, forcing us to recognise our common humanity, our inter-relatedness, and the need for others beyond ourselves and our circle of interest…

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