April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
from The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot
April is upon us and this year Jews, Christians, and Muslims enter important seasons of communal prayer and shared memory in the midst of another global pandemic. Jews celebrate the festival of the Passover. Christians observe Holy Week and Easter. Muslims fast during the Holy Month of Ramadan at the end of April and will conclude the month in late May with the Eid al-Fitr feast.
A cruel irony for so many of us is that caring for ourselves and our most vulnerable neighbors requires us to do the very opposite of what our holy seasons usually call for: gathering together for fasting, feasting, reflection, and prayer. Instead, we remove ourselves from one another to avoid the risk of contagion. Make no mistake, this is a painful sacrifice. That our exile is self-imposed for the greater good does precious little to take away the sting of our physical separation at the very moment we most need to embrace and comfort one another.
Yet religion is no stranger to exile. Our holy seasons, as painful as they may be this year, present occasions for us to draw on the resources of our several traditions that address the power of embracing want for the sake of awareness, finding refreshment in the wilderness, living in hope that suffering and death will not have the final word—choosing life, again and again, even when the landscape is unfamiliar and time is skewed.
What wisdom can we draw from our religions to help us make sense of these times? How can we remain spiritually connected even as we are physically separated?
I have included in the link below one reflection from a sermon preached in Rockefeller Chapel this past November. You will find other resources on our website in the days ahead for nurturing your spirituality, from virtual programming in our Spiritual Life office to rebroadcasts of music performed in our university chapels. Our doors may be closed, but our hearts are open.
I hope in the days ahead you will find and share with your communities other reflections, poems, songs, and works of art that can help us all move through this exile together and emerge a more compassionate people. Remember those who suffer and especially those who mourn.
May peace be with you today and always.
D. Maurice Charles, Dean
Rockefeller Memorial Chapel
Click "Sermon" below for to access the November sermon The Bare Fact of Prayer.