A Personal Message From Jack Ciattarelli
First and foremost, we will get through this crisis. As we do, we offer our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those who’ve passed . . . We pray for those who have the virus . . . And we most thankfully celebrate all those on the front lines whose sacrificial work keeps us safe and well.
“War” and “battle” are two words that have been used to describe the crisis. In 1863, as the deadliest conflict ever waged on American soil gripped the entire nation, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed March 30tha National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer to, among other things, restore the country “to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”
The last casualty of the Civil War would be Lincoln himself, assassinated on April 14th, 1865.It was Good Friday.
Of all the Easter Sunday sermons delivered in houses of worship across the country two days later, one became well known. It was delivered at the Christ Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut by the Reverend John Fulkner Blake. Entitled “A Sermon on the Services and Death of Abraham Lincoln,” Blake’s oration included the following passages:
We are accustomed at Easter to come to the house of God, and, while our souls are overflowing with joy, to mingle our glad voices in triumphant song. But on this Easter, His hand is so heavy upon us that we are constrained to hang our harps upon the willows and sit down and weep.
A gentleman, having recently visited Washington on business with the President, was, on leaving home, requested by a friend to ask Mr. Lincoln whether he loved Jesus. The business being completed the question was kindly asked. The President buried his face in his handkerchief, turned away, and wept. He then turned and said, “When I left home to take this chair of State, I requested my countrymen to pray for me; I was not then a Christian. When my son died, the severest trial of my life, I was not then a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and looked on the graves our dead heroes who had fallen in defense of their country, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ. Yes, indeed, I do love Jesus.”
We remember Gettysburg as a tragic battlefield, a vast cemetery, and the location of Lincoln’s most famous speech. But it also seems to have been the place of new life and rebirth for the man we remember as our Sixteenth President.
For Christians, this is Holy Week, which culminates with the celebration of Easter Sunday. In the Christian faith, Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus and symbolizes the eternal life granted all those who believe in him.
Like other major holidays, Easter comes at the changing of seasons. And so, even for the non-religious, Easter is celebrated as a time of renewal where outdoor color returns to life and growth begins again.
Our friends of Jewish faith are, of course, observing Passover, which celebrates the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. Passover, too, is about faith, perseverance, overcoming adversity, and the dawn of a new day. Renewal.
Knowing full well the challenge at hand . . . This Easter and Passover season, no matter what one’s religious beliefs, a mindset of renewal – “new life and rebirth” – is needed more than ever. As humans, we are, after all, characterized by optimism and hopefulness. And with each passing day, we are, albeit painfully, closer and closer to putting the crisis behind us.
With each of us doing our part, we will get through this crisis. We will prevail. And when we do, we will, while honoring the memory of those lost, thankfully return to our “former happy condition of unity and peace.”