The 25th of January 2022 will mark the second anniversary of COVID’s entry into Australia. On that date the first known case of the disease was detected in a Victorian man returning from China. I, for one, will not be throwing a celebration for this second anniversary! Like many people I enter 2022 somewhat glad to see the end of 2021 hoping that this year will be better, at least a little better.
But now, two years into the pandemic, we’ve had time to reflect a bit on this experience. Our thoughts, naturally, can turn easily to the sense of grief, loss and disruption that has marked this time. Many people have done it hard and many people still do. We do not overlook that.
However, there’s another aspect of the pandemic experience on which I’d like to reflect for a moment. When COVID first hit we were, I think, taken by surprise. We’ve made so many advances in medicine and science we perhaps thought that an event like this would not happen. But it did and we had to make some drastic and quick changes. We were restricted in what we were able to do- we couldn’t mix with family and friends, celebrations were cancelled, church services closed down and so much more.
Nevertheless, not too far into the lockdowns, I started hearing something else from people. Not able to engage in their usual activities and prohibited from fulfilling many of their commitments, several people were expressing that this easier, more relaxed pace of life was welcome. Indeed it gave an opportunity for them to reflect on their life and then make some adjustments, finding a rhythm of life which was less busy and more authentic.
Which brings us to a gift that monastic life offers, the gift of balance. The Rule of Benedict, to draw on one monastic source, holds together several aspects of life giving due weight to each without any one dominating to the exclusion of others. For example, the timetable he sets out for each day holds prayer and work in balance. Not too or too little of one to the exclusion of the other. In Chapter 48 he lists five activities the monk is to weave into the seamless garment of life: prayer, work, rest, study and eating. All important, all in balance with each other.
Assessing our life’s balance may have been forced on us by COVID but Benedict reminds us we don’t have to go back to our old ways once it is over. Some people find it helpful to use a prayer of examen periodically, for example, at the end of each day. Perhaps at the end of each day or week or month we might look back and ask ourselves; what did I do in this period of time that I didn’t need to be doing?
Maybe a life more balanced will be a positive gift this pandemic offers us.
Rev Gary Stuckey