HOW do you celebrate in a time of a pandemic? Is it even possible to talk of celebration in the midst of the pervading air of fear and caution hangs like a miasma enveloping any form of rejoicing?

The question of celebration is an acute one as we come near to Easter, the highest of holy days in the Christian calendar.

As billions of people across the globe awake on Sunday and proclaim they are an Easter people and Hallelujah is their song, what does it look like to rejoice and lift up a song of praise in the face of covid-19 ?

For some the traditional Easter greeting and response marking Christ’s resurrection from the dead – “He is Risen!” “He is Risen indeed! Hallelujah” – will be made in the full awareness that someone they know or love has fallen victim to the disease. The declaration of joy in Christ will be made in the midst of worry or in the midst of grief.

We have been here before. Two thousand years ago those first disciples were hidden in fear, locked away pondering how it was that all they had believed in, left their homes for and dedicated their lives to had died before their eyes.

The doubt and distress of Good Friday is always with us. It is there for each of us those times of bereavement, those times of helplessness and seeming hopelessness, those times of illness and suffering.

This time of pandemic is a reminder of the words of the American theologian Walter Bruggemann who has noted that in our own lives we often find ourselves in that time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

And in between is Holy Saturday. That time when fear, loss and grief threatened to overwhelm, when it seemed that death had won.

But at the heart of the Christian faith is the declaration that death no longer has the final word. That the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ means that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.

That this frail mortal body will one day give way to life eternal in the presence of a God whose love for us knows no boundaries and will not be limited either by our expectation or doubt.

The path to the resurrection also takes us through the valley of the shadow of death. There will be times when we struggle to see beyond the uncertainty of Good Friday. When the slough of despond runs so deep in our lives that it seems the brutality of the Cross overshadows the emptiness of the tomb.

At such times it is worth recalling the words of the Apostle Paul writing to the fledgling church in Rome who wrote: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

May you know God’s peace, comfort and love this Easter. And may you rejoice.

lArun Arora is vicar of St Nicholas Church, Durham.