This illumination on vellum depicting the Three Marys at the Tomb, by Lorenzo Monaco (c. 1370-c.1425), a Camaldolese monk, is currently at the Louvre (closed to the public), and online at Wikimedia Commons (open to the public).
The empty tomb, hope and the pandemic:
In French there are two words for “hope”. Espoir, akin to our adjective hopeful, combines a wish for and a guarded expectation of a positive outcome: with scientists working hard to find a cure, healthcare workers giving their all, and the general public taking precautions, we can hope that the pandemic will end soon. It may or may not happen.
Espérance, by contrast, is the theological virtue to which St. Paul refers in I Corinthians 13: “Faith, hope and love abide, these three…”, and the hope of which we sing in the Easter sequence: Surrexit Christus, spes mea. This hope, emanating from the empty tomb, is presaged in the Song of Songs: “Love is strong as death” (8:6), and in the Book of Job: “Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” (19:26) Yes, Christ is risen indeed, and in light of the current situation, these verses and the empty tomb point poignantly to the persistence of God’s love, no matter what. Death will come for all of us eventually, whether through the virus or by some other means, but God’s love will continue to hold us, shining through the gloom and lifting us into the Divine Presence, where dwells the risen Christ.
The glory and hope of the Resurrection are visible in the many ways God-as-Love is made manifest in this crisis: in those who risk their lives by caring for the sick, or by working in grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, hardware stores and soup kitchens; in those seeking a cure; in those building tiny houses for the homeless; in companies and individuals making free masks and hand sanitizer; and in all those going out of their way to raise our spirits and emphasize our global connectedness as a human family, with online musical events, hotlines for the lonely, and myriad efforts to help those not used to solitude to remain sane. Death is with us, but so is Love, strong as death.
Christ our Passover
After an arduous two weeks of Eucharistic fast during Lent, in solidarity with the general population, we decided to return to daily Mass in our chapel the Saturday before Palm Sunday. Christ is the focus of our life, our raison d’être as a community, Whose Presence in the Eucharist is the tie that binds, and without Whom we would be simply three elderly ladies in odd clothes trying to live together in harmony. Since we have the immense good fortune to have a chaplain and daily Mass, it didn’t seem right to continue to stay away, besides which, it was becoming too hard. We continue to include in our prayers all those for whom this fast is a time of painful deprivation.
We are grateful for the support of so many of our friends, and we pray that all of you are staying safe and healthy.