by Rabih Hasbany
“We will not celebrate Easter this year …”
“There will be no Resurrection Day this year …”
In light of the current worldwide lockdown due to the outbreak of coronavirus, many people have lost the opportunity to practice traditional Easter rituals. On Sunday morning, we did not go to church and celebrate with each other within the same hall; extended families did not gather around a feast; we did not visit friends, hug them, and exchange greetings; and children did not have the chance to enjoy Easter activities and celebrations. The same will be the case for Eastern Christians this Sunday. We might feel this Easter holiday has been both disappointing and underwhelming since we were unable to celebrate in the manner to which we have become accustomed. However, I believe that this year’s invisible, deadly and emerging guest gave us a unique opportunity to experience the redemptive power of God that made the Day of Resurrection a special ministry day for our core family members: our fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives, and our sons and daughters.
On this Resurrection Holiday, the family altar was restored! This year we did not go to church for a special celebration but instead gathered on Sunday as a family. We listened to the hymns of resurrection and to a sermon streamed online, and we prayed together reflecting on the implications that the resurrection of Christ has had on us. It never occurred to me that I might have the opportunity to hold a worship meeting at home, but coronavirus has given me this opportunity. This year, I did not minister to the members of my church or to the people in my community, but to my household, to my family. We are often busy planning services through which we reach our communities and share the Gospel of Christ with them, especially on holidays. We hold special events in our churches to reach out to our communities, but we easily forget that our families need this service as well. We often move to Judea and Samaria, and perhaps to the end of the world, but forget a small house in Jerusalem, that is our house, and the people in it who need to hear the message of salvation. Coronavirus has canceled all celebrations, masses, and meetings, and it has kept us in quarantine and socially distanced from one another; however, it has also brought us closer to our loved ones. The redemptive power of God has opened the door for us to better minister to our households during the lockdown.
I have heard the phrase “there will be no Resurrection day this year” from my family members and this allowed me to share with them the meaning of resurrection in my life, which does not depend on circumstances. Resurrection is stronger in times of death, hope is more valuable in times of despair and joy is more true in times of grief.
This situation has helped me read 1 Timothy 5: 8 from a different perspective: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Perhaps it would be better for me to say that I have missed reading it before, but now I am living it and spiritually providing for members of my household in new ways. The Lord called me to be light and salt for them and He quarantined me with them for a reason. The lockdown brought me back to the family altar, and God has opened the door for me to serve my family.
On this Resurrection Holiday, parents had the opportunity to focus on their own children instead of the children of the neighborhood, town and city. It is easy for us to serve children but forget our own children. Serving children has occupied my time and energy for a while, especially during the period of this pandemic that closed churches, schools, playgrounds and fun zones. Children are currently experiencing something drastically new, and they likely face some degree of trauma from pressures that we can hardly imagine. A school lockdown may be fun for a day or two (maybe even a week or two), but it loses its appeal quickly with the pressure of online learning, which is a new experience to most of our children. We have to remember that little ones too are hearing news of illness and death every day. Additionally, they are staying at home where they cannot play with friends or see them. Above all that, they need to develop new cleaning and sanitizing habits. All of these conditions put children in a confusing and concerning situation. That is why children this year need a special celebration and a fervent reminder of the joy and hope of the Resurrection. This requires parents to look for resources that provide them with creative ideas to do with their children. Coronavirus has redirected ministry to households and especially to children. We now have the opportunity to prepare special meetings with them, to them and for them.
This is what the Bible commands: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6: 6-7).
Praise to the Lord for this unique Resurrection holiday, which is different from previous years. It is the day to return to the nuclear family! It is a holiday for restructuring our priorities. Our risen Lord is restoring the family to its place, making family services a priority and helping us to develop healthy habits in our homes, especially in terms of praying and studying the word of God together. It is time to remind ourselves of our responsibility to the old and young members of our household. And if we haven’t done that yet, it’s not too late since we are likely to remain in quarantine until further notice. Now, I must end here. It is time for our family altar.