For Christians worldwide, there is no day more sacred than Good Friday, which this year fell on April 10. Even those who are not fervent believers or regular church-goers make it a point to go to church to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. However, the dreaded Covid-19 has affected all countries in words unimaginable and religion too has been deeply impacted.
Good Friday, a day spent in penance and prayers in churches worldwide, has now been confined to people’s homes as churches are shut to prevent the spread of the pandemic. But churches have innovated and gone online and made sure that their flock don’t miss the religiosity of the moment.
For the Orthodox Syrian community of Kerala, Good Friday was a day entirely spent in church as services would commence in the morning and go on till late afternoon. The long day, usually a hot day in April, would see the young and the old, men and women, children and their grandparents making a beeline for church. In many cases, due to the huge number of people coming on that day, church services would be shifted to huge, make-shift tents in big grounds. Young mothers could be seen carrying their infants and other paraphernalia and children would be stocked with biscuits and juices to keep them occupied the whole day.
Priests and bishops led the faithful in prayer on this day and the solemnity of the occasion would touch all. The march with the cross by the clergy, which symbolised the burial of Jesus after his crucifixion, would move many to tears. The day would end with a frugal community meal of rice gruel, lentils, pickle and papad.
The solemnity of the occasion was a bit dimmed this time for all Christian denominations as people watched Good Friday and other services held during this Holy Week on their computers. Those without computers watched it on their mobiles.
But with so many services to choose from this time, the faithful were selective and watched mainly those which were melodious. So you could be in Delhi and watching a service in Bengaluru or Kottayam in Kerala or be in Mumbai and watching a service in Pune. But as there were no congregations in any churches—they were following the government directive to not gather together–the service seemed a little surreal but that hardly mattered. People were just grateful to be participating in religious functions in the time of Covid-19.
Next year would be different.