The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying” (Matthew 28:6).
The empty tomb is testimony to resurrection, or a release from the corruption of the body in the necessary burial for cleansing from sins and the lifting up to the purity of eternal life. Jesus rising from the dead on Easter morning is the clear promise of resurrection for us, lowly mortals in the end of time into Eternity.
Happy Easter to all who believe in Christ, the Redeemer!
According to Christian Today, there were 2.4 billion Christians around the world in 2015, out of about 7.5 billion people, or one-third of the world’s population. The top five Christian countries are: the United States of America with 213 million, or 65% of population; Brazil with 175.7 million, 04.1%; Mexico, 122.5 million, 83.6%; Russia, 117.64 million, 93%; and the Philippines, 110.64 million, 85% of population. Ten countries in the world have Christians composing from 99% (Romania) to 93% (Greece) of their population, with the Vatican, of course, having 100% of its population as Christians (specifically Roman Catholic).
So, perhaps in the whole history of Christianity, never has the anamnesis of Lent and Easter to Christian life been more poignantly enacted than by the present world experience with the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. With 1.6 million coronavirus cases reported worldwide, countries have imposed lockdowns, quarantines, stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders and social distancing, increasingly stricter since mid-February when the fearsome virus was afflicting significant numbers, and extending until after Easter, mostly until the end of April. The prolepsis or anticipation of Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26 that started the 40-days Lenten traditions and ended on Holy Saturday, April 11, too starkly compares the world-wide imposition of isolation from COVID-19 to the death of Christ the Redeemer and the symbolic entombment of Lent.
Then, the world should have been released from the entombment of quarantines from the coronavirus, parallel to the empty tomb of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Not just yet, the Lord sayeth. Kyrie elaeison — Lord, have mercy! Will it be in 50 days or hopefully less? Easter is the longest in Christian liturgy, lasting seven weeks until Trinity Sunday, June 7, the first Sunday after Pentecost. Perhaps 50 days more of isolation and cleansing is positive thinking that most of the world can thereafter freely move about more normally — hopefully testing procedures, treatment, and a vaccine against COVID-19 would have been found and set in place by then.
Why is isolation/quarantine necessary in this time of COVID-19? According to Harvard infectious disease epidemiologists studying the US situation in early March, 20% to 60% of adults will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came out with a visual graph showing how quickly the estimated 1% fatality rate (as many experts say) will claim tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths in the US alone, until a vaccine is discovered that will prevent the virus from infecting unaffected individuals. “In the worst-case scenario, the daily number of cases jump dramatically, rapidly forming a tall peak that breaks through the critical line marking the capacity of the healthcare system. The reality is stark: Too many cases too soon and they overwhelm the hospitals,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a US House committee (USA Today, March 11).
The graph with the tall peak of COVID-19 infections, with the superimposed low-peaked controlled-exposure graph is the #FlattenTheCurve campaign, the only contra to the spread of COVID-19 pandemic so far. “Flattening the curve means that all the social distancing measures now being deployed in most countries around the world aren’t so much about preventing illness but rather slowing down the rate at which people get sick,” the CDC offered.
Ironically, it took a while for the US and major European countries to be really serious about #FlattenTheCurve. The United States is now an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. China, where the coronavirus originated, and other countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea have been successful in flattening the curve before infection rates soared exponentially, as predicted in the high-peaked “before” chart of the CDC, if isolation/quarantine were not strictly enforced. “But grim projections indicate that the virus has not reached its peak and that the situation will get worse,” said a report in https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/02.
In the latest John Hopkins interactive map of COVID-19, there were 1,776,157 confirmed cases worldwide as of Easter Sunday, with 108,804 deaths and 402,903 recoveries. The top five countries affected are: the US, with 529,740 cases, 20,602 deaths, 31,988 recoveries; Spain, with 163,027 cases, 16,606 deaths, 59,109 recoveries; Italy, 152,271 cases, 19,468 deaths, 32,534 recoveries; France 130,730 cases, 13,851 deaths, 26,671 recoveries; and Germany with 125,452 cases, 2,871 deaths and 57,400 recoveries. Note that Germany shows the best recovery rate at 45%, better than the US’ 6.03%, and the others recovering about 20% on the average. But more jarring is the death rate, which goes from 2.8% (Germany) and 3.8% (US) to 10% — 12% of cases in the other three (European) countries. Didn’t the Harvard epidemiologists say COVID-19 has a predicted 1% mortality rate?
The Johns Hopkins report shows the Philippines with 4,428 cases, 247 deaths and 157 recoveries as of yesterday, Easter Sunday. That would be 5.5% deaths and 3.5% recoveries. The increase from the first coronavirus case reported on Feb. 1 peaked on March 31 with 538 cases in just one day. The latest daily increase graph shows 233 new cases on April 11, Holy Saturday. The Philippines has not flattened the curve, and there will be more cases before the infection wanes.
And so must the entombment in the coronavirus contagion in the Philippines continue in extended community quarantine (ECQ) until 11:59 p.m., April 30. Shut yourselves in, and shut your mouths — you cannot use up all your quiet time (albeit imposed by temporal authority), going on Viber and social media blaming government for clumsily addressing the crisis — even if evidently, the vanities of most elected and appointed officials never took into consideration supra-human other dictators (aside from politics) of people’s lives, like the coronavirus. After all, in a government by the people, it is the people who had voted for leaders who turned out to be inept and incompetent, uncouth and brusque, and/or out rightly corrupt and dishonest. And so now we suffer — from the ruthless, indiscriminate coronavirus and its wake of destruction in society and in world and country-economics, and in personal health and wealth.
Pope Francis, in his homilies at his daily Masses at Casa Santa Marta on Holy Week, always pointed out that Christianity is probably the only religion that emphasizes suffering as the fulcrum of Faith in the redemption of Man by the death of Christ on the cross. On Holy Wednesday, in the gospel of the betrayal of Jesus by his disciple Judas Iscariot, Pope Francis warned of “the little Judas” that is in every person’s humanity, that tempts a betrayal of the common good, or the good of another versus personal interest and concerns.
The entombment by the isolations and quarantines of COVID-19 has provided the perfect “closed retreat” to re-think and evaluate Christian values towards resurrection in the true Life. Stay in your tombs, to eventually rise healthy and strong for a cleansed world.
Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.