Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans is still recovering from his sickness, but that hasn’t stopped him from sending out an encouraging message this week before Easter.
The first known American bishop to test positive for the coronavirus, he invites all people everywhere to “become a part of the story” this weekend.
“My sisters and brothers…we can be assured that this Holy Week will be one like we have never celebrated before,” Aymond said in a video message posted on Facebook.
“With the coronavirus and all the ramifications, and the crosses and the crisis and the challenges this has caused, it will be a very different Holy Week,” he said.
Indeed, it is different, but what Aymond goes on to say about Holy Week never changing is exactly why we have a great opportunity to make what is “different” the new norm, as it should always be—for people of faith to engulf themselves in deep prayer and not to be “spectator[s] watching Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection, but being a part of that story as it unfolds.”
One way people of faith can become a part of that story, Aymond says, is to choose one of the Gospel narratives of Christ’s passion, and read it from the perspective of one of the characters, going through each scene through that perspective.
“Perhaps sitting at the Last Supper, you can become one of the apostles,” Aymond said. “Perhaps you will be able to look at Peter as he is in the garden watching Jesus pray.”
“Perhaps we can become like Mary standing at the foot of the Cross, or like John standing next to her, or Veronica wiping his face as he is bleeding, or the women of Jerusalem as they are crying…or perhaps we can be Joseph of Arimathea, asking for the body of Jesus so that we can bury it in a very sacred way,” he added.
I will confess that through a series of spiritual encounters and prayer, I came to the realization that I view the suffering narrative through the eyes of John this Lent. What the bishop is suggesting really is a fantastic practice. It allows you to live the Gospel with nuance you’ve never experienced before.
“If we do that, my sisters and brothers, we are not spectators of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, we become part of the story. And it is important that we always become part of the story to see God’s love and fidelity, but in a special way as we go through the coronavirus crisis.”
Get well soon, Bishop. And thank you for your prayers and inspiring words.
Writer Jeff LeJeune has an M.A. in English, is a high school and college instructor, and is a former college athlete. In addition to his writing work for The Hayride, he is a ghostwriter, editor, and novelist. His website is www.jefflejeune.net.