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Nicolais: As Holy Week begins, we are not lost or alone in the wilderness

After initial fear that I’d lose an annual spiritual touchstone because of the coronavirus, I learned we all share the space between us

The coming week promises to try my spirit. For the first time in more than a decade, I won’t spend several days during Holy Week walking into church services. 

In past years, I’ve written about my adoration for Maundy Thursday and the message of promise I drew after last year’s Holy Week pyre consumed Notre-Dame de Paris. I did not think Holy Week circumstances could be more somber. I was wrong.

Not only is the world in turmoil, but for the first time it has broached the refuge of peace I find within my parish walls.

Mario Nicolais

I’ve been relatively unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic. I’m used to working from home, I prefer to cook rather than to go out and I’m holed up with my favorite person: my wife, Lori. The most impactful changes have come via an inability to see the rest of my family in person, a broken New Year’s resolution to host a monthly game night (though, that might be back thanks to tech solutions and Zoom) and a lost season of soccer viewing at my beloved British Bulldog pub.

Overall, that makes me exceptionally lucky. Doubly so because no one I love has become sick.

But it doesn’t make losing a touchstone in my life any less difficult. While Christians worldwide may be feeling the same loss, it is not unique to our experience. To the contrary, it is the shared human experience affecting each of us around the planet every day. 

Locked away and separated from one another, the activities we enjoy and the places that put our spirit at ease, isolation and psychological discomfort leach into our lives day-by-day, hour-by-hour. Quarantine memes notwithstanding, anxiety grows exponentially with the uncertainty over the timelines to return to normalcy.

It feels like we are all, individually, lost and wandering through the wilderness.

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That feeling brought me back to my church during this season of Lent. It looks different with our priest speaking to an empty hall and into a video camera. It feels different sitting in my study rather than a pew. However, after a few minutes, I realized the message remained the same. The comfort I seek through worship continued to emanate across my fiber optic cable.

Though I couldn’t go to the house of God, He found His way to me.

More than a little credit should go to the oratorical skill of Rector Allan Cole. While delivering last week’s sermon via YouTube, and paraphrasing the poet Christian Wiman, he reminded our congregation that, “we all belong to the sea that is between us. That space, that grief causing space, is something that we all share. All of us, together.”

Listening with others from as far as Dubai, Sweden, North Carolina, Virginia, New York and Italy, I realized how small that vast space became in comparison to our shared bond of community. Despite being a world apart, much less six feet, we remained united and close in spirit.

I expect that unity to not only sustain during Holy Week, but to grow and amplify beginning on Palm Sunday and continuing through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter itself.

I may not be dressed in my Sunday best – am I the only one hoarding sweatpants right now? – but I will be connected to my community. Just as many of us have learned to be online via Zoom happy hours, regular Facetime calls and shared video parties.

During the Last Supper, the apostle Thomas asked, “How can we know the way?” Christ replied, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:5-6). 

I believe that provides a guide people of all faiths and no faith can agree on in our current circumstances: there is a way forward during this time of isolation, the truth is that we will overcome the difficulties we now face, and finally, new life awaits us as a worldwide community when this pandemic ends.


Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, healthcare, and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq


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