The holy synod’s decision of the church in Greece to conduct the holy week and Easter services behind closed doors but to televise them live and to broadcast them over the radio forms part of the universal effort exerted globally to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This decision was not an isolated step taken by the Greek Orthodox church. Similar decisions have been taken by all Christian churches and indeed all places of worship around the world.
In all cases, there were a few dissidents for whom the possibility of transmitting a disease through the holy communion or from participating in a holy sacrament is simply inconceivable and in itself a form of blasphemy. However, these few rebels in the end felt obliged to succumb and go along with what logic and reason dictated.
What is striking about this story is that a virus that is hardly a living organism has managed to impose on all the religions in the world a common stand against a common enemy and succeeded in overturning – at least temporarily – habits and traditions deeply rooted in people’s minds. A petty virus, invisible to the naked eye, has managed to put in the same sack all religions, the differences between which in the past caused rivers of human blood to overflow.
But while the rituals of each religion differ, as do the approaches of each religion to individual aspects of human existence and behaviour, it is an unquestionable fact that their common elements are much more numerous than their differences. Although one would have expected these similarities to unite people, the few differences become the causes that divide them.
Is there a prospect of all religions coming under the same roof? No chance! This is certainly not going to happen because religions are tools of authority and power and, by extension, vehicles serving different interests. Each individual centre of power aims at serving its own interests. The reason religions have increased over time is, in fact, the need to serve diverging interests. For this purpose, sects should be treated as representing different centres of power. Of course, the need to seek answers to the timeless questions and eternal concerns of the human race are always there: How was the world created? Who made the protoplasts? Is there life after death? Is there a god? Is there divine justice?
This Easter week, while locked up at home, we have the opportunity to focus on the universal messages of the Christian religion. It is an opportunity to silently focus on the religious messages of love, forgiveness, compassion, altruism, solidarity. It is an opportunity to quietly reject hypocrisy, revenge, selfishness, pettiness, resentment. Let’s forget the theatrical, ritualistic elements of religion; let’s ignore the selfish interests and motives of church officials. In our isolation, let’s resurrect all those beautiful feelings that make certain human souls stand out from the crowd. Happy Easter!
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia