Emptiness… Abandonment… death. These are words many of my friends, loved ones and occasionally myself have said over the past few months with the rise of covid-19. Most of us are forced to spend time alone and it is only then that we come face to face with who we truly are. Some are feeling abandoned because of the social distancing and their need for companionship. Others have covered their inner emptiness by a social front consisting of numerous friends. Such front had to collapse due to the quarantine as turning a blind eye to the emptiness within has become virtually impossible. With the current death rate of covid-19, it is difficult to pretend like death is far away. Sad situation, right? Fortunately for us, our faith is not a matter of theories but is rather of truth and life.
Let us see what our faith can say about abandonment:
Prior to the Resurrection, Jesus shouted while hanging from the Cross, “Father! Father! Why have you forsaken Me?” In becoming human, He experienced all that is human including feeling abandoned by God at a time of suffering even though He is always one with the Father in His divine nature. If you feel abandoned by God as you suffer through COVID-19 or through the loneliness of the quarantine it imposed, do not be afraid, my beloved, for you are in a good company: the company of the crucified Christ.
Now let us turn to the question of emptiness and death…
You might be wondering why I would group these two together. Well, it is because emptiness is a form of death of/for the soul. How can we resuscitate our soul? Self-emptying. A riddle? Not really. It is rather the Christian paradox. Christ emptied Himself when He became human, putting aside His glory (which is holy and good) that we may have life. When we empty ourselves of our false sense of ego, we are filled with the life and resurrection of Christ. The void within cannot be filled apart from the risen Christ. Whenever we feel emptiness within, let us look toward the empty tomb and be reminded that Christ is no longer in the tomb because He is within us and through Him, “we live, move and have our being.” Even physical death does not have the final say over us, Christians, for He is the resurrection and the life of us all. Let us be reminded that the resurrection is not solely a past event. Rather, it is an event in which we are eternally participating through the baptism we received by which we were buried with Him and rose with Him.
Having dealt with the emptiness of the soul and the empty tomb, I don’t want to ignore the elephant in the room. Churches are closed and empty, and many are hurting, and rightfully so, because of such sight. But I want to challenge you to see the empty Church building as a reminder of the empty tomb. When Mary Magdalene saw the tomb, she thought it automatically meant something bad is happening (Jesus’ body is either lost or stolen). She was soon proven wrong as she saw the risen Christ and the empty tomb became a testimony and a reminder of the reality of His resurrection. The empty Church building can become a testimony of the Christian life when we continue to live and act as pertaining to the children of God in spite of being deprived of the celebration of the Eucharistic life within the building.
The tomb is empty and so is the Church but your heart does not have to be empty. Its void can be filled with the light of the Risen Christ. Only He can change emptiness into fullness, abandonment into fellowship, and death into life. I would like to leave you with the following words of a second century homily on Pascha (Passover of Easter),
“The marvellous Pascha, the wonder of divine virtue, the work of power, truly a feast, an everlasting memorial, impossibility born of suffering, immortality born of death, life born in the tomb, healing born from wounds, resurrection born from the fall, ascent to heaven born from descent to hell.”