Easter prayers on Facebook live amid corona lockdown


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Adhering to the lockdown norms, people confined themselves of television or were glued to their mobile phones for virtual church services

Easter marks the end of the Holy Week of prayers and penitence recalling the final phase of Christ's life from his arrest and cruxification, followed by resurrection. (AP)

Thiruvananthapuram: This was a day which used to be marked by special prayers, church visits, cooking of traditional delicacies from grandma's recipe books and joyful get-togethers at relatives' houses.

But empty churches, virtual prayers, live-streaming of holy mass and Facebook live/YouTube speeches of bishops and priests marked the Holy Week and Easter Sunday in Kerala this time, cutting across villages and cities due to the lockdown to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Easter marks the end of the Holy Week of prayers and penitence recalling the final phase of Christ's life from his arrest and cruxification, followed by resurrection.

The virus outbreak and precautionary lockdown have gifted an unprecedented Easter Sunday to the traditional Christians in Kerala, where the occassion would have otherwise been celebrated with religious fervour and colourful festivities.

According to the 2011 census, Christians comprise 18.38 percentage of the total population of Kerala.

Adhering to the government's lockdown norms, people, even the ardent laity, kept away from churches and confined themselves in front of television sets or were glued to their mobile phones to catch a glimpse of holy services at churches.

Instead of sumptuous feasts with an array of ethnic mouth watering non-vegetarian delicacies, many families limited their menu to usual items.

Giving a go by to house visits, a large number depended on WhatsApp video calls to get connected during the occassion.

Sexagenerian Mariyamma Samuel was sad this morning as she could not go to her nearby parish in Ranni,a high range hamlet in the central district of Pathananthitta and offer prayers, a practise she had been religiously following since childhood.

For the first time, she was seeing an empty church courtyard on Easter morning, which normally bustles with the hymns of Jesus Christ and the joyful chats of parishioners.

A retired school teacher, she and her husband waited eagerly this morning for their neighbouring children to watch the Facebook live of the Easter prayers in their mobile phone.

"We don't know how to operate smartphones. So we have sought their help to watch the church services and special prayers. Parishners were informed by the church that it will be live on the Facebook," she told reporters.

As their son and daughter were away from home and no relatives could visit them due to lockdown restrictions, special delicacies were not prepared this time.

People in Ranni were extra vigilant as three Italy returnees had tested positive, along with six relatives, including an elderly couple aged 93 and 88, in the second wave of the virus outbreak in the state, hailing from there.

86-year-old Rebecca Mathew from Chathannur in Kollam felt "strain" to watch church services on the cellphone.

"This was a very different Easter from the usual. We could not attend Easter service in church. Some hymns and webcasts of services are available online, but I find it a strain to watch them on the small cellphone screen," she told reporters.

She said normally they have a 'sibling get-together' on Easter with three families meeting at one house by turns for each meal of the day.

Each family would either bring a dish or make a full meal, cooking up something special, she said,adding they would also make up food gift parcels to give their maids and other household help.

"This year, the families remained in their individual homes. The traditional non-vegetarian dishes were also not there" Rebecca, who retired as Deputy Controller of Patents and Designs, a government of India company, said.

"Our two children and grandchildren have not been able to make it here it due to the lockdown and my husband and me were hoping so much to see all of them," she said.

An ardent devotee and regular church-goer, 32-year-old Riya from Thodupuzha didn't hide her despair and sadness that she missed church services and other festivities this time.

"Otherwise, we used to be at the church throughout the Holy Week. My family is very particular that we should not miss any ritual. But there was no feeling of Easter this time...no church visits...no guests...and a very simple and normal lunch...," she told.

Detailing the lip smacking Easter delicacies, she said all kinds of meat, from chicken to pork,would be bought to prepare traditional dishes. The dishes and it's combinations would be different in various Christian pockets in the state, she said.

"We used to prepare chicken and egg curry, duck roast, pork vindaloo and so on.. stew and rice would also be there. But this time, we limited it to chicken only," the woman said.

There was a shortage of pork and beef in the local market, may be due to the lockdown, she said, adding that the quality of the meat also could not be ensured.

In some places on the eve of Easter, heavy rush was noticed ay meat shops with police even using lathies to chase away people, who flouted the social distancing norms.

The traditional feast is served in Christian homes this day, marking the end of the 40-day period of Lent when believers shun luxuries and widely pleasures.

Meanwhile, major church denominations have given prior information to devotees about the live telecast of Easter mass and church services through the YouTube channel and Facebook page and their own devotional channels.

Only a very limited number of people, including bishops and senior priests, took part in the church services and gave messages of spiritual revival.