The new Covid19 lockdown is upon us again. It would be so good to return to our life which we had before. Is there a return? Most probably not. Our life, we like it or not, has become biblical. What do we mean by that? It means that what is at stake is no longer health but our very salvation. Whether we like or not this turn of the dice, we must take seriously this option. The future, the eternal future of our souls. Physically, in terms of reversing time and going back before the epidemic, there is no return. However, for our souls, there is not only the possibility of returning, but it is our obligation. We should consider ‘return’ in its biblical meaning. The New Testament calls it metanoia. Literally, it is a Greek word meaning “change of mind”. Yet the full meaning is somewhat more. In the Bible, the word metanoia is often translated as “repentance”. But this kind of repentance is not about regret or guilt or shame; it implies making a decision to turn around, to face a new direction. To turn toward the light. The Old Testament calls it ‘tesuva’. Literally, it means a return to a previous state. When we ‘repent’ or return, we examine ourselves, and identify those areas of where sand got among the clogs of our life. We ‘return’ to a previous level of spiritual purity.
We have different strategies to cope with our present exile. Personally, I try to watch movies which were made well before the pandemic. I am revisiting banal films, where I pay attention not so much to the story, but ‘how the world looked like’. It is really easy to appreciate with awe how our streets looked like. How people dressed, what music we enjoyed. Yesterday, as a random choice, I found a 1985 family adventure movie, the Flight of the Navigator. In the film, a 12 year old boy, David wakes up one day to discover he had lost eight years of his life. Everything, his mum, his dad, even his dog changed. Everything, except him.
The story consisted in the sci-fi part of the film. It was an adventure of discovering why David’s brain was sending out strange signals which he even could not explain. He gradually learnt why a group of top-secret scientists wanted to lock him up and study him. The truth was even stranger. Because even though David is just a kid, his mind was the key to the most amazing discovery on earth: a visitor from another part of the universe. For him, he learnt from the alien intelligence, there was only one chance to rerutn to his normal time, and family, which he desperately wanted. A dangerous journey, of which success the alien could not guarantee. ‘Your responsibility. You might evaporate if it does not succeed.’ David takes the risk and returns. When he meets his parents and pain in the neck little brother, he says to each one of them, including the dog. ‘I love you. I love you very much.’ The movie is a light-heated science-fiction. But also, is a profound description of what return, what ‘repentance’ means.
Let us think about our own desire to ‘return’ from our present situation. As mentioned before, this captivity is real. There is no way of undoing it. It is just as a real drama as Jesus’ suffering and Crucifixion. It is just as impossible to undo. Wherever physically we will be taken, hopefully, when the virus is curable, there is no way of erasing the memory of this present Good Friday. And our hoped Easter shall not be meant one that erases the memory of our present losses and suffering.
There is no clever answer as to the meaning of the tremendous suffering Covid 19 is inflicting upon us. There is no return to old answers and banal hopes. At the moment, all what we can say is that we have to take seriously the journey of our souls. That this journey is a journey through prayer. If there is a ‘return’ it can take place only through prayer. There is no other medium to be freed from this real, Biblical exile. The most what we know at present is the vision of the medieval mystics, Julian of of Norwich and William Langland. Both of them portray the abiding scars of crucifixion on the body of the risen Lord. These wounds, according to Julian’s witness, is a point of entry. We can reach a joyful and delightful place through the wound in the side of Jesus. All we know is that this ‘place’ is large enough to provide shelter for all those who will be saved. Our soul’s ‘return’ is the recognition that the wounds of Christ are redemptive. This is because they open up his body, allowing access, into God’s forgiving Love. And we also know, that while there is no earthly answer to the ‘why’ of the tremendous suffering of those who got seriously ill and had died, we know that these wounds of Jesus imply the dignity of those who suffer in this epidemic. His suffering gives dignity to the victims. We don’t know how and why but the impassible God, at the same time, in Christ, is continually suffering in his members.
And perhaps, the most consoling recognition is that there is something, close at hand, to which we can return to. What is this most real thing, which is untouched, unwounded by Covid 19? What is this path and resource? The Bible, the word of God, his sacraments, and our prayers are from that world, which both precedes and overcomes the present epidemic. In the film, the boy could learn to fly his spaceship. So can we. Let us get real, let us care for our soul’s journey.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..