by Catherine Maresca
It began with the Chinese New Year. Just as millions of Asians were preparing to travel and feast for two weeks in late January, the coronavirus began to spread and most travel was suspended there. Then communal Easter celebrations for Christians and Passover Seders for Jews were also severely limited. And most recently limited are the meals during Ramadan, that often includes family gatherings to break the fast at the end of the day as well as the celebrations of Eid al-Fitr for Muslims last weekend.
Meanwhile I’ve been coloring this mandala, drawn around the Hebrew words “Next year in Jerusalem,” that are shouted at the end of the Seder. This final call is one of hope. Whatever the limitations of our community or circumstances, we hope for the fullness of celebration in the future. In addition to being the Holy City historically for Jews, Jerusalem is also a sign of the fullness of Shalom, of the Kindom of God. As I carefully added color to my mandala, I was thinking of the terrible times for all of our communities of faith in history, where some could not gather, celebrations were held in secret, and a call of hope was most heartfelt, shining like a beacon as we move forward in faith.
I’ve also appreciated how much of Jewish and Muslim observance is domestic, thus protecting and continuing the practice of faith during difficult times. As a Catholic, I’m finding the focus on sacraments led by ordained ministers as the heart of the life of faith to be problematic. It seems to me that the heart of the faith should be observed and celebrated in the home, and always accessible to every disciple.
In this regard, Sofia Cavalletti’s arrangement of her atriums so that the prayer table is the focus rather than the model altar, gives children and adults agency in practicing their faith, and freedom to seek and celebrate their relationship with God everywhere, and in many ways. Mass is a structured celebration and very limited in much of the world. But thanksgiving and breaking bread are daily practices in our homes, and can be the seeds of our own understanding of Eucharist.
As we consider how best to share our faith and hope in these times, we are forced to shift the focus of our practice back to the home. To acknowledge how the embrace of parents helps children connect to the tender love of God; how daily meals speak of the gifts of God’s provision and human work; how words of comfort and hope, amusement and rage, gratitude and worry, prepare us to experience the depth of human experience in the Bible, how the experience of family helps us to receive one another as sisters and brothers. This experience, however lacking they may be, lays the foundation for knowing and hoping for fullness of God’s love, communion with all creation, and the joy of celebrations of faith.
Next Year in Jerusalem!