Easter services adapted amid coronavirus pandemic

Easter services adapted amid coronavirus pandemic
Easter traditions looked a lot different as the world sought to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. (Source: Pixabay)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Easter traditions looked a lot different as the world sought to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

In Baton Rouge, most churches elected to stream services online for the faithful.

It was a reminder that empty buildings don’t stop believers from celebrating an empty tomb.

Easter religious services adapted as world battles COVID-19

Bishop Michael Duca of the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge offered the following message on Easter Sunday:

“Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!” Every year I begin my Easter Sunday homily with this traditional greeting shared among Christians of the Eastern Rite Churches. Unlike the casual greeting “Have a blessed Easter,” “Christ is Risen!” is a PROCLAMATION of faith that expresses a heartfelt Easter joy that cannot be contained. “Christ is Risen!” invites a response from those greeted to share the common faith as they respond, “He is Risen indeed!”

I think all of us look forward to our springtime celebration of Easter as a time of renewal and hope. But this year is so different. We have had a hard few weeks which have changed our lives so quickly we can hardly catch our breaths. Many have lost jobs, the routine and predictability of our lives has been disrupted, and at times we have felt totally out of control.

This year there will be no beautiful Easter Vigil, Sunrise Service nor Easter Sunday liturgy with all the family together, no big family Easter meal or neighborhood Easter egg hunts. Some will feel further sadness at being physically separated from parents, grandparents and loved ones for their safety and ours. It may feel that God is strangely far away at a time when in the past we have felt the hope of Christ’s resurrection most powerfully. We are trying to find firm footing in a world where the ground keeps shifting under us.

Yet even though our traditional family and religious celebrations of Easter are restricted this year, the hope of our faith expressed in the Easter proclamation, “CHRIST IS RISEN!” is not diminished. Indeed, it is especially from our experience of how fragile life can be that we are invited to place our hope more deeply in God, our Creator. We may find ourselves at times in a kind of darkness, but the light of Christ risen from the dead illuminates our way, responding to our deepest desires for healing and inspiring within us renewed hope.

As we face real concerns that might threaten our trust and hope in the Lord, this proclamation of our faith should become our anthem, our cry of defiance against sin and death and the seemingly impossible challenges in our lives today. Let our faith form a firm foundation from which we can meet the challenges before us, confident in the hope that despair and death do not win. The hope that has always been within us may now need to be reawakened in this time of struggle. As Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “Let nothing so fill you with sorrow that you forget the joy of the Risen Savior.”

It is from this place of faith that I wish all people a Happy Easter and a spring season renewed in hope. May all our actions of love and caring support for each other bear witness to the hope we carry in our hearts. Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Holy Week started with Palm Sunday, which was Sunday, April 5. The bishop blessed palms at St. Joseph Cathedral at 10:30 a.m. They were not available for public distribution.

Bishop Duca also postponed the annual Chrism Mass, which is usually on Wednesday of Holy Week.

The bishop said the Sacred Paschal Triduum is the shortest liturgical season of the Church and begins with evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, and runs through evening prayer on Easter Sunday. The liturgies associated with Holy Thursday were shortened to align with the bishop’s directives as they relate to the number of participating ministers.

The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night, commonly called Holy Saturday, were also been shortened, with all activities related to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) postponed.

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