Have you noticed how quickly our vocabulary has expanded in just a matter of weeks? A couple of months ago, these words and their combination hardly passed our lips: COVID-19, coronavirus, social distancing, PPEs, self-isolation, flatten the curve, pandemic.
Even an ordinary word like “virtual” has come to mean things it never used to describe: the primary mode of high school education, graduations, gatherings, meetings, worship, not to mention Happy Hour! All these things suddenly carry the moniker “virtual” because treasured forms of community have, at least for a season, taken on the connotation of being almost… nearly… but not completely.
Last night, my husband Larry and I were among the other pastors and their families distantly spread across the Chapel to offer the Lenten Evening Prayer Service via Facebook Live. It was extraordinary. Our pastoral colleagues and their families are so talented playing piano, violin and guitar to accompany the singing. As we left I said to Larry, “I will never take gathering for worship for granted.” I am not sure I ever have, but now that virtual worship has replaced corporate, incarnate gatherings for a time, I find myself treasuring it even more.
Our closing hymn last night was the beloved, mournful and yet beautiful “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” Scattered around the room, we sang together and I found the first phrase of the last verse a special blessing for this new pandemic vocabulary to which we are becoming accustomed: What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend...”
In the midst of the jarring new expressions of a global crisis, the church has an enormous share of borrowed language. We need it now as never before. Biblical language, liturgical language, ancient words of succor and comfort, familiar prayers and hymns with melodies to lift our spirits. I am so grateful for the church’s borrowed language to express our profound gratitude to God for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our friend in the midst of human tragedy.
When Holy Week arrives this Sunday, we will begin to mark our days with language borrowed from our faith and tradition. Even though we are apart from one another, we will be gathered by words of support, hope, love and blessing wherever we are. I invite you to view all our virtual services as we make our way toward the cross and the empty tomb asking God together, O make me thine forever; and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love for thee.