It’s the bottom of the 10th in the nail biting 2011 Texas Rangers/St. Louis Cardinals World Series. Game 6. The Rangers lead the series 3-2 and need just one more strike in the bottom of the 9th to clinch. They are leading by 3 runs and now the Cardinals come up to bat. Our son, who is house bound with us during this pandemic, is watching a rerun on MLB.com. I hear the roar of the crowd… I can’t see the screen…I can’t remember how the game ends..! Who wins?
While this was going on, I glanced at the op-ed in the NY Times: “God Doesn’t Want Us to Sacrifice the Old”. There is a debate in the U. S. over the notion that suggests offering, in this hour of pandemic, less medical aid to the most vulnerable of our society.
These two realities juxtaposed make for a jarring and enervating atmosphere. And so it goes in this “hard Lent”.
On the one hand, we look out the window and people are walking by, the birds are singing lustily and the days are mellowing into longer light. On the other, COVID-19 numbers are going up, the stock market is sea-sick and no one knows for sure how far away an effective vaccine might be. Churches are closed, services are suspended.
During a season of pandemic what is at play within us? Competing forces of faith and fear? Silent calculations of risk? An actuarial analysis of infection rate percentages? Who is old? Who is young? What does ‘compromised’ health mean? Did she need to take all the hand sanitizer?
I once spent an afternoon in the mid-1970s with William Golding, the author of Lord of the Flies. He had spoken to our M.A. class in the morning and then invited us to a pub lunch. He told us that he had just recently returned from a conference on various dystopian views of western culture. The Lord of the Flies, a seminal book of the 20th century, concerns the break-down of civil order within a boy’s church choir as the boys find themselves marooned on a desert island. Golding, in his tale of terror, reminds us that heartless thought leads to heartless action; anxiety at the perimeter of our conscience can lead to its overthrow; an over-riding instinct for self-survival can cultivate, to say the least, a disregard for the common good.
How absolutely essential it is then to recognize the Person at the centre of our Christian religion. How absolutely vital it is to ponder, during this hard Lent, the nature of the Revelation of Divine Love in Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy One we call the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. The nature of our Community of Faith draws its nature from the Community of The Holy Trinity. Our parish community is held in the embrace of the Divine Community. The source of our mortal life is Divine Life — given freely, abundantly, compassionately.
These are not doctrines in the abstract. These are not, “tidy conclusions to an argument” but rather, “they offer us a world to live in.” (Rowan Williams, Christ, The Heart of Creation). The world of our own soul and the world in which we live, is ‘in-breathed’ by God the Creator, God the Living Word, God the Holy Spirit. We are thus graced to stand in this anxious hour.
The Venerable Max Woolaver is the Rector of St. Andrew’s (Grimsby) and Archdeacon of Lincoln.