04/06/2020, 12.34
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The Easter mystery in empty churches and around the world

by Bernardo Cervellera

The pandemic emergency, far from under control, forces priests to celebrate mass without the people. On the night of the resurrection the tomb in Jerusalem was dominated by the same silence and lack of participants. The world resembles one great tomb that puts our pretension to happiness at all costs with its back to the wall. The announcement of the resurrection in empty churches needs prophets to bring this hope to the global grave.

Rome (AsiaNews) - Easter has a strange flavor this year, one we were no longer used to. The pandemic emergency, which has yet to be brought under control, forces priests to celebrate mass without the people.

In most Asian nations, as well as in Italy, churches - and other places of worship, such as mosques - are open only to individual prayer to avoid infection. Thus, the most solemn moment in the liturgical year for Christians, the resurrection of Jesus, will be without the polyphonic chorus of choirs, devoid of the cascades of fragrant flowers, robbed of the splendor of blinding lights. The singing of the hallelujah on Easter night will perhaps be whispered, to prevent the breath of the singers from spreading around coronavirus molecules by positive, but asymptomatic individuals.

An Easter reduced to the essential, bare, with an empty church. Yet, this very aspect, the void, closely resembles the first sepulcher in Jerusalem, the one into which the deposed Jesus was laid. And the first night of resurrection was dominated by the same silence and the lack of public: no one witnessed the moment when Life began to flow again into the body of the Redeemer, humiliated by suffering and annihilation on the cross. In the empty and depopulated churches, the mystery of that first night of resurrection is renewed, with the style, the absences and the silences that for the first time in history accompanied the victory of Life over death.

The powerful triumph of Christ, although celebrated in the near-silence of the churches, restores the faith of us Christians. But can this faith bring comfort and light to the rest of the world? The news and statistics that reach us every hour from the most diverse parts of the planet augment the perception of pain and death in everyone: more infected every day, more corpses every day, more agony every day.

There is another worrying aspect: so far, the coronavirus epidemic has mainly affected countries in Europe and North America, or like China, Japan, South Korea, where there is somehow a health system that, although collapsing, still manages to assist, cure, heal at least a part of those affected by the virus.

As I write these words we are at the beginning of what could become a tragedy: the spread of the coronavirus in countries like India, or like many African countries where the army of poor is in the hundreds of millions and where the health facilities barely function for the rich.

But even in developed countries, death is dominating the days of many, highlighting our impotence, even though the commitment to treatment is constant. The whole world resembles one great tomb that puts our pretensions to happiness at all costs with its back against the wall.

"Son of man, will these bones be revived?" (Ezekiel 37, 3). This question of Yahweh to his prophet before the endless valley full of bones, returns to me of late. The question precedes the intervention of the Spirit who from the dried up bones reconstructs the corrupt tissues and brings his people back to life. But the Spirit waits for the prophet to announce it. The announcement of the resurrection in empty churches needs prophets to bring this hope to our global grave.

It is moving to learn of how many priests in Italy who have lost their lives in their ministry alongside coronavirus patients. And it is striking that in front of the millions of day laborers left without work, without a home and without food, piled up in the Indian megalopolises, the local bishops have mobilised to treat the sick, house the homeless, distribute food. All of this is an expression of solidarity that does not only come from the forces of man, but is the result of the resurrection of Jesus, who has erased all of our differences and made us brothers and sisters.

Of course, many people still live for themselves. As in the Passion of Jesus, there are the profiteers, those who are attentive to political conveniences, those to economic profit, those to power, regardless of the death that surrounds us and that even devours them. But Christ is risen and we are now part of a new world that is blossoming forth from the now empty tomb.

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