Passover, Holy Week, and Other Stories in a Time of Pandemic

This is the week of Passover on the Jewish calendar which is celebrated over a common meal when important stories are shared–stories of remembering the ancestors’ liberation from the pharaoh, along with many other acts of exodus from oppressions internal and external.

At least 140 employees at one hospital alone, Brigham and Women’s in Boston, tested positive for coronavirus as workers around the country work tirelessly to help COVID-19 patients. Medical staff now protest for sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment as the Joint Commission for Healthcare finally rules in favor of allowing them to purchase supplies for themselves.

We have been honoring sacred stories for several weeks in our Daily Meditations, most recently the stories of work and how many workers in this plague moment, are bearing witness to the bravery and professionalism (also known as competence) to which they are devoted in the service of the sick and dying.  Many themselves becoming sick and dying.  Stories of generosity. “No greater love has a person than to lay down their life for their friends.”

And we are told such stories will darken and multiply in the coming days and weeks.

“The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. From the collection of Santa Maria delle Grazie. On Wikimedia Commons.

This is also the week called “Holy Week” on the Christian calendar, born of course as so much of Christianity is, from Jewish roots (since Jesus and the Gospel writers were all Jewish).  In this week Holy Thursday is remembered as a Last Supper sharing of Jesus with his disciples and friends which included the washing of feet as well as the sharing of bread and wine in his name.  Another story.  A sacred story that invites re-membering, “Do this in memory of me.” 

On Good Friday comes remembering the story of Jesus’s cruel and unjust death at the hands of the empire of his day, a reminder of how unjust and cruel life can be when even the innocent suffer and die.  Stories follow of the rending of the veil in the Temple (the one with the picture of the universe on it); and of earthquakes and people rising from their tombs, apocalyptic imagery abounds in these stories.  The universe itself is rent in two when injustice reigns.

“The Myrrh-bearers at the Tomb of the Lord” Icon by Anonymous artist;
end of XV – beg. of XVI c. Wikimedia Commons.

And the story of a visit to the underworld to liberate lost souls there. 

And finally a surprise story on Sunday morning of an empty tomb and a resurrection that is promised to all.

How do we wrestle with and absorb all these rich stories in the midst of a pandemic?  When the usual gatherings of believers and wannabe believers cannot occur because a virus is laying our species low all over the globe?  Where even the morgues and cemeteries are overflowing and people who die cannot be properly mourned or buried because to gather in their memory would itself endanger the mourners themselves?  We will consider these questions this week.

Please note that a special emergency is occurring at the Navajo Reservation, a space larger than the state of West Virginia, where the coronavirus is appearing in special intensity and with very few resources to mitigate it.  Go to and see what you can do to assist.

See Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus, Stations of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 123-142.

Banner Image: An anonymous nurse in New York City wears scuba goggles to replace the personal protective equipment no longer available through the hospital. Anonymous selfie photo from “JCAHO Gives an OK For Clinicians To Wear PPE & Masks From Home After Many Were Reprimanded” by Chaunie Brusieon on

Queries for Contemplation

As a Passover meditation, what are your first needs for liberation at this time?  And those of your culture?  What journeys of exodus are you on now?

How does the story of Jesus’ last supper and/or Passover speak to you and to us this week?

Recommended Reading

Resurrection Logic: How Jesus’ First Followers Believed God Raised Him from the Dead

Bruce Chilton investigates the Easter event of Jesus in Resurrection Logic. He undertakes his close reading of the New Testament texts without privileging the exact nature of the resurrection, but rather begins by situating his study of the resurrection in the context of Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, and Syrian conceptions of the afterlife. He then identifies Jewish monotheistic affirmations of bodily resurrection in the Second Temple period as the most immediate context for early Christian claims. Chilton surveys first-generation accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and finds a pluriform–and even at times seemingly contradictory–range of testimony from Jesus’ first followers. This diversity, as Chilton demonstrates, prompted early Christianity to interpret the resurrection traditions by means of prophecy and coordinated narrative.

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7 thoughts on “Passover, Holy Week, and Other Stories in a Time of Pandemic”

    1. Phila Hoopes

      Hello Stev,

      If you click through the link on the title, you will come to the book page on Matthew’s site, where you can purchase it. Enjoy!

      Phila Hoopes
      Blog Coordinator

  1. Avatar
    Margaret Rose Hess

    ‘Egypt is anything that enslaves the spirit’. As one who has struggled with depression lots times, I have come to think of it in many contradictory ways, such as ‘an inherited disorder’, ‘a personal failure of resolve’, ‘a chemical imbalance’, ‘a reasonable reaction to an unreasonable reality’ (‘if you’re not depressed, you’re not paying attention’), and many other notions. If/when I again feel my spirit bound under it’s chains, I will try thinking of it as an ‘Egypt Land’ that is not my true home. I believe there may be great comfort in this way of looking at our human frailties.

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