Padre’s Corner: Life in lockdown
By Padre Lt(N) Tim Parker
‘They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.’
Before COVID-19, we lived a very full way of life, and now we are struggling to adapt to a more deprived way of life. Constant quarantine, isolation and lockdown mean we have lost most human interaction and meaningful contact. We have the bare necessities of life, but we do not have a healthy and normal range of relationships. We are very careful about the air we breathe and the things we touch: people are out-of-bounds. It is very hard.
Quarantines throughout history have always meant hardships. When the Jews escaped slavery in Egypt and were on the long march to the Promised Land, quarantines were imposed on any individual who contracted leprosy, a dangerous and infectious skin disease. Anyone who caught leprosy was isolated from society for 14 days in order to prevent the spread. Weekly medicals determined when the sufferer was no longer contagious.
What is different about our quarantine is that every single individual – with or without COVID – is essentially quarantined from every other individual. It is society itself which is in quarantine. Where historically the sick individual was removed from society, now society itself is removed altogether, and we become quarantined individuals living the lockdown life.
But let us derive some benefit from this quarantined way of life! There is a spiritual response to quarantine that can help us: it is to treat the quarantine as a fast. A fast is when we give up some necessity of life, usually food, in order that we might be filled with God. Our quarantine is a kind of fast from normal human relationships. We can offer to God the suffering it causes. Here the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) agree: God will not spurn a contrite heart. Offer your hurt and your heart to God. Use isolation as a solitude which is time for God. And if you should encounter a person with COVID-19, remember that God asks us to love the leper. Peace be with us.