Easter in the Silence of My Heart
Updated: May 19
Easter Sunday has always been associated with grand public celebrations. In Cebu where I live, the most popular one was Minglanilla’s Sugat Kabanhawan. I still have a vague memory of the first time I joined the Sugat celebration.
The Easter Sunday I Used to Know
The night sky was the color of coal. In front of the church, an elaborate stage was setup where vendors used to display food and toys. String lights around trees gave the public plaza a subtle festive vibe.
Actors in their angelic costumes stood in suspended scaffoldings attached to the front of the church. They had harnesses tied to their garments so they could jump gracefully from the scaffolding to the stage below as if descending from heaven. Then, there was a reenactment of the meeting of the Risen Christ and Mary. A fireworks display followed. And as we flock back to our homes after Mass, we greeted each other “Happy Easter” and “The Lord has risen!” with beaming smiles. A feast of traditional Filipino food and desserts wait at home.
But that was a long time ago. A lot has transpired this those days. Now, it’s different. Easter 2020 is a totally different story.
The Mystery of God’s Interruptions
Since the news of the COVID-19 outbreak, almost everything I knew ceased to be normal, even the celebration of Lent and Easter. The Filipino Lenten observance called “Kwaresma”, which was derived from the word “Quarantine”, becomes literal.
Now, the streets are empty. And the people are obliged to go home.
I love going to Mass and taking Holy Communion. But all of a sudden, the churches are closed. Masses are canceled. And the excitement of having a festive Easter Sunday celebration is only just a thought.
Now, I can only feel the stillness, silence, and isolation, situations that compel me to turn my gaze inward into my own soul. There’s anxiety and loneliness looming in the corners of my heart as I lurk inside my room, isolating myself for fear of contracting, or worse, spreading the virus.
In a sense, the virus has become a manifestation of God’s ultimate adversary, the devil. It is massively destructive and without cure. And most of all, it is invisible to the naked eye.
In the midst of all the confusion and anxiety, I learned to see Easter in a totally different light. Indeed, God has a way of making us pause. He has a way of disrupting our normal life. And he has a way of giving us a new normal.
Embracing Solitude and the Way Forward
I’ve seen how this challenging season brought out the true colors of people. Some people found ways to help, while some people found ways to criticize. While some people are safe at home, there are also many people who are unsafe even in the presence of their family members. For me, this has been a time to learn how to be fully present for my family. I’ve learned to be with them and accept them in all their flaws and imperfections. In the same way, I’ve felt their unconditional love for me.
In the light of this pandemic and the new normal it brought, it’s easy to feel hopeless, sad, and even depressed. The only cure to these spiritual diseases is to recognize the presence of God among us.
Despite the challenges, one thing that is sure is that the Lord has indeed risen more than 2000 years ago. We know the end of the story. We know that the Lord has triumphed. And that’s consolation enough to get through these difficult times.
As a modern Catholic, it’s important to feel the resurrection of Christ in my own heart first. The grandiose Easter celebrations are secondary. Although it would help to enjoy the festive vibe of the season with others, starting an internal relationship with Christ is the priority. And it comes only with a renewal of the heart, one that’s grounded on the hope of the Risen Christ. Let’s take this time to renew our relationships with Him, and wait in patience to see the goodness of His plan unfold.
Written by Jefanie Genilla, Pure Heart missionary