Morning Meditation in the Age of COVID-19

The sun rose this morning in a pale-yellow sky behind the faithful stand of trees at the edge of our lower field. Its rays reach in through the windows of my living room—and the windows of my soul—and bids me to awaken all the more to what still is beautiful. The earth continues to turn. The stars hold their places in space, and the planets’ orbits are steady in their positions and paths.  On this tiny patch of ground on which I live, buds have burst open on the trees, grass rolls out new green at my feet, and squirrels scurry, chattering and chasing each other.

In this mandated Pause, while all movement in travel, entertainment, work, business, education, even whole cities halt, I wonder if this is a divine invitation to humility.  Certainly, as social distancing is more and more stringent, we human beings are exiled from our lives as usual. Worldwide poverty moves into my neighborhood.  We are ordered by our governor to withdraw further into ever more solitary lives. 

St. Isaac of Syria records that an elder was asked “How can someone acquire humility?” The elder offered some guidance and closed his remarks saying, “In sum: exile, poverty, and a solitary life, all of these give birth to humility and cleanse the heart.”[1]  Exile. Poverty. Solitary life. Humility.

It is humbling for us humans who are accustomed to ruling over the earth and others, to be halted by a microbe.  In contrast to the squirrels’ hurry and scurry—which has been our normal pace—we are now made to lie low, to be still, to acknowledge our finitude.  I wonder, as we collectively acknowledge that we are NOT gods, if we can “be still and know” the ineffable and unnamable One.

The Corrymeela Community’s morning prayer includes their intention, “We make room for the unexpected; May we find wisdom and life in the unexpected.”[2]   While the unexpected disease has aggressively moved in, we are learning how frighteningly slow we’ve been to make room for it.  What wisdom may we find; what life?   

I am grateful for the witness of Nature, that she continues faithfully morning by morning proclaiming God’s handiwork. And for the witness of the Psalms and prayers that have carried other generations through plagues and pestilence.  They do call to mind the ancient memory that God IS, and is not far off; that the Lord is my Shepherd and therefore I have all that I need. Even now. And that consoles me.  Yes, I am confronted by the equally true reality that my body is mortal and finite. I do not know the hour of my death, but that was true even before the outbreak of a global pandemic. From the Reality of God’s shepherding sufficiency and grace I will once again choose to live. How shall I orient myself in this hour for Life, to live this moment and every moment? I will myself to be attentive in this day to what I can do, to work and prayer, to ponder even as I reach toward hopefulness: “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”   Still, and again, amen.

[1] An excerpt from Daily Readings with St. Isaac of Syria, introduced and edited by A.M. Allchin ; translated by Sebastian Brock. (Springfield, Ill.:Templegate, 1989),  pg. 70  

[2] Morning prayer from Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community by Padraig O’Tuama. (Canterbury Press, Augustt 22, 2017) pg. 3