So, we are back in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. What makes this lockdown worse is that it is winter. It is cold, the nights are long. We are stuck at home unable to leave to do the things we want to do. As we glue ourselves to the 11am pandemic update and hear the infections and exposure sites rise, there seems to be no end in sight. There seems to be nothing good in lockdown, or is there?
If we cast our minds to Advent, as experienced in the northern hemisphere, we might find some similarities between Advent and our current lockdown. Advent is held in December. In the northern hemisphere, people are confined to their homes because it is too cold and dark to go out.
Some of the readings in Advent pick up on the imagery of the farmer patiently waiting for the rain to come after a long drought. The farmer ploughs on during these cold drought times which seem to go forever. He is cultivating something beautiful, so when the rains come, life can burst through.
Mary was the same. She was a pregnant, unmarried woman. Did she really know how she became pregnant or what her child would become? By faith, we know. Mary would have to wait over 30 years before she found out.
So how are you using your lockdown time? What are you cultivating, physically and spiritually? Like many others, I find lockdown tough, as I cannot do the things I usually do. I decided to work in my garden. I am now preparing garden beds and planting native plants so the birds, insects and reptiles have food and shelter. Spiritually, I found the garden and the work I did in it a metaphor for my soul.
Often these hard times can harvest something beautiful if we give God time to work with us, on us. A way we can allow God to work with us on us is to celebrate our pandemic Laetare Sunday. Laetare Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent where we take a break from fasting and give ourselves time to reflect and celebrate.
My Laetare Sunday is every time I reflect on the native plantings God and I created during the lockdown. I see the beauty of nature take hold in what was once weed-ridden land. Laetare Sunday is also every time I speak to my neighbours while I am gardening and they pass by on their pandemic walk. God is speaking to me through my neighbours and in nature. Had it not been for the pandemic, none of this would have occurred.
Yes, we are in a pandemic lockdown, and it is cold. However, the readings during Advent of drought and cold and Mary, tell us this pandemic lockdown can be a time for preparation and growth. The lockdown will end. Let us give God some precious time to create something wonderful physically and more importantly, spiritually. It is our accidental Advent.
Zara Tai OCV is a consecrated virgin in the Diocese of Parramatta.