Easter: Christians faith put to test by Covid-19

Members of Cathedral Church of Christ the King, in Nakuru, mark Good Friday on April 19, 2019. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • February 26 marked the beginning of Lent. This is a 40-day period of reflection. It is the time Catholics and other Christians make preparations for Easter celebrations.
  • Mr Peter Njoroge says that without physically meeting other believers, it has been difficult to know what is happening.

On April 5, Pope Francis gave the homily for Palm Sunday.

But unlike other years when multitudes of Catholic worshippers would congregate at St Peter’s Square in Vatican City, it was different this time.

The Pope televised the liturgy behind closed doors of St Peter’s Basilica and with just a few members of the clergy. Outside, the square was almost empty.

The Covid -19 pandemic has upended the lives of millions of people and even interrupted their ways of worship.

In Christendom, today is important in the journey of faith. It is Good Friday, a day that Christians worldwide commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

They day also marks the start of the belief in life after death. On this coming Sunday — Easter Sunday to be precise — Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

LIVE STREAM

To Catholics, it also marks the end of the Holy Week, the end of Lent and the beginning of the Easter season of the Church year also known as the liturgical year.

On this day, Catholics engage in particular prayers and devotions as acts of reparation for the suffering of Christ, leading to his crucifixion and death.

If today were an ordinary day, without the ban of social gatherings, Catholics would have gathered and undertaken what they refer to as the way of the cross and later celebrated the commemoration of the death of Jesus Christ.

There is no mass on this particular day. Due to the directives by the Ministry of Health, Catholics will not congregate for these activities.

For the first time, they did not go to church for the Holy Thursday — a day to commemorate the Last Supper, which is the final meal Christ had with the disciples.

Now, worshippers have to stream daily ceremonies and masses through social media, TV or radio stations.

RENEWAL OF VOWS

Those without access to online platforms or mainstream media will be in the dark.

“There will be no processions on streets because of the current situation. However, we encourage Kenyans to commemorate and participate in their family settings. Christians can take part in the 14 steps of the way of the cross in the comfort of their homes,” Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Nyeri Catholic Diocese said.

“The Holy Saturday night vigil liturgy will be limited to priests.” The bishop added that Easter ceremonies would be celebrated by priests alone in churches, with the faithful taking part remotely.

It is also during this season that priests meet in dioceses for the blessing of the holy oil and renewal of their vows.

“That should have taken place yesterday, but because we are observing measures given by health authorities, we have put this on hold. It will be done on a later date,” Bishop Muheria said.

February 26 marked the beginning of Lent. This is a 40-day period of reflection. It is the time Catholics and other Christians make preparations for Easter celebrations.

FAMILY TIME

Mr Tony Kinyua, a Kenyan working and living in New York, the US, says it involves fasting and making sacrifices, like abstaining from meat on Fridays.

“I take this season seriously. It is disheartening this year because I will not physically attend the holy mass or take part in the way of the cross and the songs that come with Easter,” Mr Kinyua told the Nation yesterday.

“Easter is a time to be with family, but I will be alone because of the travel restrictions. I intend to take part in the celebrations remotely. I will fast and follow live proceedings of the procession. Apart from Ash Wednesday, this is the other day Catholics are required to fast.”

Ms Terry Nzau, a member of the Shrine of Mary Help of Christian Don Bosco Parish in Nairobi, will follow the proceedings online.

“We have been following our masses online daily at 8am and 8pm. I intend to do the same tomorrow and the consecutive days. It is strange not to meet physically. I have never experienced this before. We occasionally have meetings on Zoom with members of my Small Christian community. It feels very different,” she said.

“It can also be overwhelming, especially when you have children around as the service is going on. I am sure many Catholics forgot that yesterday was Holy Thursday. To some extent, this Easter season feels like just any other time of the year.”

FOSTER VALUES

Mr Peter Njoroge - who worships at St Joseph Mukasa Catholic parish in Kahawa West - says that without physically meeting other believers, it has been difficult to know what is happening.

“Yesterday and today are the saddest days in our Catholic calendar because of what happened to Jesus Christ. But without the physical fellowship with other believers, it is easy to forget that we need to fast and be fervent in prayers,” he said.

“Thankfully, we can follow daily mass proceedings from the Facebook page of the parish.”

Bishop Muheria said he misses the physical participation of the congregation. “The public and the physical manifestation our faith strengthens the church and the faithful. It is irreplaceable,” he said.

His message to believers during this Easter season is to live up to the true demands of Christian faith, that of loving and serving our neighbours.

“The restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic have called us to rediscover the importance of love and care for one another,” Bishop Muheria said.

“We are going to spend more time together and so it is an occasion to live up to the true demands of the Christian faith. Easter season celebrates the victory of Christ over evil. Let us give one another hope that even amid this pandemic, God is still caring and in control.”

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