Quarantine for Lent

The École Biblique is not exempt from the restrictions imposed on people all over the world. Several of our brother professors and the director are blocked in France, unable to return to Jerusalem: since March 9, both our courses and our conferences have been cancelled for a preliminary period of fifteen days. The library is closed to researchers who are not residents. The hostelry is also temporarily closed due to the lack of visitors from abroad. Some of our employees, locked up in Bethlehem, cannot come to work. Others come with bottles of hand sanitizer and the smell of disinfectant has invaded the corridors… The atmosphere is peaceful and a little surprising. The city itself, emptied of its visitors, is calmer and you can almost hear the dawn of spring in the beauty of our garden, which has taken on the appearance of a gentle retreat. Everything therefore is in slow motion, even if the brothers and students assiduously continue their research.

Perhaps more spiritually , this imposed slowdown can be a beneficial opportunity to take time, time that we never have or do not want to take. The community life of the École is undoubtedly, despite the calls for ‘social distance’, more intense and more fraternal. Each one has more time for readings that he or she had abandoned, each one has more time to reread not only another article in the Revue Biblique, but perhaps even a bit of one’s life. It is a favorable time to renew contact with friends who are sometimes a little neglected. This time of seclusion, of isolation, fundamentally reminds us of what the liturgical time of Lent is all about: freeing time to pray, to take care of one’s brother, to return to the essential, without superfluity. Of course, the illness is frightening, and rightly so, but it opens up a space that makes us change our habits, that moves us. To be displaced, to be sent to the desert for a little while, is undoubtedly the best way for a believer, a Bible or God seeker, to advance in the spiritual or intellectual life. If we are waiting, like everyone else, for the resumption of “normal” life, the École and its community can take advantage of this time of quarantine, that is, of Lent.

Fr. Olivier Catel, o.p.