I cannot help wonder whether the time of empty and closed churches is not some kind of cautionary vision of what might happen in the fairly near future.This is what it could look like in a few years in a large part of our world. We have had plenty of warning from developments in many countries, where more and more churches, monasteries and priestly seminaries have been emptying and closing.
Why have we been ascribing this development for so long to outside influences (the “secularist tsunami”), instead of realizing that another chapter in the history of Christianity is coming to a close, and it is time to prepare for a new one?
Maybe this time of empty church buildings symbolically exposes the churches’ hidden emptiness and their possible future unless they make a serious attempt to show the world a completely different face of Christianity. We have thought too much about converting the world and less about converting ourselves: not simply improvement but a radical change from a static “being Christians” to a dynamic “becoming Christians.”
Maybe we should accept the present abstinence from religious services and the operation of the church as kairos, as an opportunity to stop and engage in thorough reflection before God and with God. I am convinced the time has come to reflect on how to continue the path of reform, which Pope Francis says is necessary: not attempts to return to a world that no longer exists, or reliance just on external structural reforms, but instead a shift toward the heart of the Gospel, “a journey into the depths.”
We can, of course, accept this Lent and Easter of empty and silent churches as little more than a brief, temporary measure soon to be forgotten. But we can also embrace it as an opportune moment to seek a new identity for Christianity in a world that is being radically transformed before our eyes. The current pandemic is certainly not the only global threat facing our world now and in the future.
Let us embrace Eastertide as a challenge to seek Christ anew. Let us not seek the living among the dead. Let us seek him boldly and tenaciously, and let us not be taken aback if he appears to us as a foreigner. We will recognize him by his wounds, by his voice when he speaks to us intimately, by the Spirit that brings peace and banishes fear.
These are the words of Fr. Tomáš Halík, a professor of sociology at Charles University, Prague, president of the Czech Christian Academy and a university chaplain. During the Communist regime he was active in the underground church. He is a Templeton Prize laureate and holds an honorary doctorate from Oxford University. The full article appeared in America Magazine 4/13/20.
What changes do YOU see coming in our Church as a result of our churches being closed during the coronavirus pandemic?