Lent, Quarantine and Hope
Did you know they are all connected? It has not gone unnoticed to many that the Covid Pandemic began to enter our conversations around the time that Lent started. Ash Wednesday was Feb 26.
This is not an ominous sign of God’s wrath. On the contrary, Lent is one of the holiest and most revered seasons in the Christian calendar. It is a time for sacrificing and reflection, specifically on Christ’s “Sorrowful Passion” and the horrific cruelties he suffered. The end of Lent results in the joyful liberation from the tomb and the Hope of salvation.
How ironic that our world is forced into sacrifice at this time. Even more ironic is that the Italian word quarantina means “40 days” and is the term for Lent in Italy. Lent lasts 40 days, stemming from the amount of time Christ spent in the desert, fasting and being tempted by the devil. The word “quarantine” came into use as a term for “isolation” in Venice during the Black Plague. Ships arriving from afflicted countries would have to wait 40 days confined to quarters in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
We find ourselves today not only confined to quarters but sacrificing normal activities we otherwise wouldn’t think of as overindulging during Lent – shopping, dining out, sports events, concerts, festivals,
conferences – and of course, traveling. How many spring break plans were cancelled? According to airline figures, a couple of million.
This removal of oneself from social gatherings and entertainment was actually the norm for Catholics until the 1800’s. Hence the heightened frivolity of “Mardi Gras” and “Carnival”. The day before Lent
really was your last chance to have fun for a while. It seems that once again an austere Lent is being experienced, not just by Catholics, but the entire world.
While not of our choosing, we are observing Lent more seriously this year, and perhaps learning its true meaning along the way. And just as Easter is the reward at the end of Lent, we also know with Covid-19 there will be a “resurrection”: the suffering will end with jubilation and a renewed sense of faith, gratitude and inner peace. We will have learned profound lessons on our journey and become stronger on the other side of it.
Stay Safe Everyone.