The Sunday Magazine

A COVID-19 confinement chronicle: week four — Michael's essay

"This year distancing has taken on a whole new meaning. It means staying away from neighbours. It means that the traditional Seder or Easter Sunday dinner with extended family has become an occasion of danger and dread. For many it means being alone with one's thoughts."

'This is the strangest Easter of my lifetime'

Painting Easter eggs and making the most of difficult times. "Even our eggs are social distancing," says Kristen Stevenson of Newfoundland and Labrador. (Submitted by Kristen Stevenson )

What a strange, disconcerting time for the people of faith. For Jews, the first Seder of Passover was on the night of April 8. For Muslims, the sacred period of Ramadan begins on April 23. And for Christians, it is Easter Sunday, the most important date in the liturgical calendar.

And all the churches, synagogues and mosques are shuttered, closed to their worshippers.

The Pope, priests, imams and rabbis, take to the profoundly non-sacred Internet to give voice to their spiritual mission.

For Christians, Easter brings with it the gentle auguries of spring and the expectation of renewal. It marks a distancing from winter, which is a kind of death, into the months of new life.

But this year, distancing has taken on a whole new meaning. It means staying away from neighbours. It means that the traditional Seder or Easter Sunday dinner with extended family has become an occasion of danger and dread. For many it means being alone with one's thoughts.

In my family, in my growing-up years, Easter was far more important than Christmas. It was a solemn time, but also a time of joy. And of hope. Christmas was much more openly secular, more about toys and Santa than Jesus.

This is the strangest Easter of my lifetime. Staying indoors with time on my hands has led to long periods of introspection, not something I excel at.

Despite the COVID-19 crisis, the family in this Summerside home is not going to miss celebrating Easter and the arrival of the Easter Bunny. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

Friends tell me they are reading a lot of poetry and thinking about — many for the first time — some of the ultimate questions. For people of faith, I would imagine it's perhaps a question on how a loving God would permit the escalating horrors of the pandemic.

Questions only; no answers.

Michael Higgins, is a Catholic academic and writer. He has been on this program many times discussing theological mysteries and the politics of religion.

I asked him what he made of this strangest of Easters. This is what he wrote: "Easter is about resurrection, NOT resuscitation. It is about new life NOT desiccation. In our global year of the plague, the promise of renewed hope lies on the horizon, a horizon I tell myself remains in sight — distant perhaps, but there."

Paul Stewart spent his weekend handing out more than 1,700 flowers in front of a colourful display — including a camel dressed up as the Easter bunny — outside his River Heights home in Winnipeg, Man. to cheer up his neighbours. (Travis Golby/CBC)

There's a whole lot of waving going on. Somebody in the street started the idea that each Sunday around 1 p.m. we all stand in our front yards and wave to each other. It's called The Big Wave.

At first, I thought, what a cornball idea. I am not now, nor never have been, much of a waver. Like the British poet Stevie Smith said, "I'm not waving, I'm drowning."

I now think The Big Wave is a great idea — a gift almost. We can smile at neighbours we've never met. We can laugh at and with each other. We can feel for a minute or two what "We're All In This Together" really means.

When the show is over this Easter Sunday, I'll wave.

Hear that? To quote Paul Simon, it's the sound of silence. In our cities and towns, it's what quiet sounds like. Fewer car horns, less traffic, no construction noise, no mindless music in bookstores and restaurants. The world for a moment is noiseless.

Get lost in it.

Click 'listen' above to hear the full essay.

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