Today is a spring Saturday — a day often filled with home projects, sporting events, shopping, spring break vacations, travel, movies and more.
This year is different. The spread of the novel coronavirus has sent people around the world into isolation with “stay safe, stay home” directives and “shelter-in-place” orders. While this is a forced rest and reset, it may actually prove to be productive.
Yesterday, the Christian world celebrated Good Friday. Many fasted and prayed as is traditional for the world’s Catholics and other faith traditions. President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, invited not only the church’s 16 million members but all people to join in a special day of fasting and prayer.
President Nelson called on the people of the world to fast and pray that COVID-19 would begin to subside, that health care professionals and first responders would be protected, that researchers and scientist would be inspired, that those suffering would be comforted and blessed, that the economy would be strengthened and that daily life would resume.
Now it is Saturday. Christians believe this is the period following the crucifixion of Jesus where his physical body lay in a tomb while his spirit visited those in heavenly spheres. Some faiths refer to this as Black Saturday while others call it Holy Saturday. Many traditions celebrate this as a day of spiritual contemplation and physical rest.
It is a day to regroup, reflect and rejuvenate for the challenges and opportunities that are ahead. Perhaps that is the lesson for modern times.
Society speeds along with no time to pause. It feels a pervasive sense that very second should be filled. A Saturday such as this, spent mourning with those that mourn, suffering with those that suffer and finding meaning in it all might transform the world’s isolation from loneliness and fear of the future to solitude and strength.
Richard Foster, in his now classic book “Celebration of Discipline” offers the Saturday-idea that “we can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear.” “Loneliness is inner emptiness,” he writes. “Solitude is inner fulfillment.”
University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman recently described the potential for good that can be created even in a forced season of solitude and rest.
Seligman writes: “In 1665, Cambridge University closed as the bubonic plague swept across England. Isaac Newton, a 22-year-old student, was forced to retreat to the family farm, Woolsthorpe Manor. Isolated there for more than a year, on his own he revolutionized the scientific world.”
During that period Newton brought forward world-changing theories and insights regarding optics, gravity and calculus. Seligman finishes, “In 1667, Newton returned to Cambridge, the plague having abated. He presented all this work to his mentor and professor, Sir Isaac Barrow. Two years later, Barrow resigned his chair in favor of Newton.”
We encourage all to use this day as a day of contemplation, reflection, service and shared sacrifice. Reach out in responsible ways to those in need. Don’t let isolation turn into loneliness. Find strength in solitude. Prepare for good days to come.
Even in the midst of the challenges and difficulties of life’s Saturdays, we should all remember that Sunday morning will come. In the renewing promise that Christian faiths find in Easter morning, the world discovers a hope that the current crisis will end and a new season of opportunity will begin.