Msgr. F. G. Gutierrez
Beyond a reasonable doubt, COVID-19 has wreck gargantuan economic, social, emotional, psychological and spiritual upheavals on the whole world.
Almost all countries either are suffering the brunt of slow or stunt of economic growth or are on the verge of recession. Family members are distant either they are stranded from their home province or could not travel because of the general lockdown. Family members are not allowed to visit their loved ones who are diagnosed with COVID-19 and worst of all they are not permitted to view their remains. There are unreported cases of emotional breakdowns due to phobia of the deadly virus. Cases of domestic violence, sexual assault of minors and significant others perpetrated by members of their own family, relatives or acquaintances are not known. There are unverified reports that stay-at-home of parents and family members contribute to the rise of those abuses.
One of the pivotal protocols to lessen or avoid the contagion concerns our face.
“A smile is a window on your face to show your heart is at home.” Anonymous.
What’s in a name? The often-repeated phrase, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” People’s face is different. A face may hide the deep feeling inside a person. He may be boiling with anger inside but shows outwardly a calm countenance. In the movie, Face/Off, Troy, the villain, planted a time bomb, with a biological payload that could destroy the entire city of Los Angeles – and Troy isn’t about to say where it is. The FBI scientists came up with a plan: an experimental surgery which made them to graft temporarily Troy’s face on Archer’s head and allow the latter to question the former’s brother, Pollux. This technique was devised to get the info from Troy where he keeps the bomb. But after Archer has taken Troy’s face, Troy regains consciousness and forces the doctors to give him Archer’s face. Troy and Archer’s faces are not their own, it is a mask that hides the real feelings inside its bearer.
Emmanuel Levinas, a less-known Jewish philosopher (1906-1995), theorized that the human is always the other man. It is not a redux of the Enlightenment Humanism that puts man in contrast with the power of his reason. Instead, it is the Humanism of the otherness that defines one’s identity through the face of the other. “There is first the very uprightness of the face, its upright exposure, without defence. The skin of the face is that which stays most naked, most destitute. It is the most naked, though with a decent nudity. It is the most destitute also: there is an essential poverty in the face, the proof of this is that one tries to mask this poverty by putting on poses, by taking on a countenance. The face is exposed, menaced, as if inviting us to an act of violence. At the same time, the face is what forbids us to kill.”
The feelings of love, harmony or hatred and distrust, when shown in one’s face, evoke the same in another. For instance when someone yawns evokes the same on another. “This circuitry is called the ‘mirror-neuron system,’ (MNS), because it contains a special type of brain cells, or neurons, that become active both when their owner does something, and when he or she senses someone else doing the same thing.” (cf. Helsinki University of Technology and the Research Centre Jülich, Germany www.worldscience.net/exclusives/050309yawnfrm.htm?vm=r.)
Experts on social relationships say that in mutual vulnerability of face, positive or negative interaction among people is maintained. Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson hold that the face is loaded with emotions. These emotions can be lost, maintained, or enhanced through human interaction.
Face mask started since immemorial times. Donning on a mask is a transformative experience changing both inward and outward behavior. To name a few, Venezuelan Dancing Devils of Yare Masks (Diablos Danzantes, or dancing devils. Masks are worn in this festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil in the city of San Fransisco de Yare, outside of Caracas, Venezuela.), the Brazilian Carnival Masks (Origin 17th or18th at Rio de Janeiro. Lower-class parade participants, called Cordões, wore these masks in opposition to the more organized and lavish parades held by the aristocratic and working-class people. It’s the Cordões’ parties, where samba was also born, that the street parties in Carnival as we know them today more closely represent). (cf. 10 Fascinating Cultural Masks from Around the World
Getting Around. Stefan Zechner.) The Carnival of Venice and its Traditional Masks. The Moriones Masks Festival of Marinduque, Philippines (these two are celebrated to usher in the Lenten season),
Facial mask was first invented in England during the 18th century by Madame Rowley. It the first “face glove” a mask which was beneficial for anyone who wanted to bleach, purify and preserve the complexion of the skin. (cf. Wikipedia)
The fist surgical masks were worn by health professionals of Naples during The Plague of 1656. They were modeled after a military armor suit.
The symbol of today’s theater — the tragedy and comedy masks – comes to us from between 500 and 300 B.C. in Greece. The use of masks, or personas as they were called, first occurred in theater in ancient Greece.
The mask has so much symbolism: shame, ugliness, deformity or identity. We all love adulation and praises. In the same token, mask hides our deepest agony and failure. To remove our mask reveals to others what we hide – phobia, grief and anger or personal recognition. This is the story behind the Phantom of the Opera. His mask hides a physical deformity. The more he hides his true identity, he finds further rejection.
The Mask of Zorro vs The Count of Monte Cristo
Each is a swashbuckling adventure set to the backdrop of political upheaval caused by a revolutionary military leader (Santa Anna/Napoléon Bonaparte) where a greedy man of status (Rafael Montero/Fernand Mondego) causes the destruction of the life of a good man he was jealous of (Diego de la Vega/Edmond Dantès), leaves him incarcerated, and takes someone close to him (Diego’s daughter Elena/Edmond’s fiancee Mercédès) as family of his own. After spending years locked up, he’d eventually escaped by hiding in one of the prison’s body bags that gets taken out to be disposed of. Concurrently it is the story of a young illiterate man (Alejandro Murrieta/Edmond Dantès) out for revenge against those who have wronged him (Captain Harrison Love/Fernand Mondego, J.F. Villefort & Danglars) who is taken under the wing of a wise wrongfully-imprisoned mentor (Diego de la Vega/Abbé Faria) who teaches him in multiple fields that help refine him into a gentleman including swordplay. Leading to the young man adopting a new aristocratic identity (Don Alejandro del Castillo y García, as well as Zorro/The Count of Monte Cristo) that allows him to infiltrate the high society world of the corrupt in order to bring justice down upon them. The conflict culminating into a conspiracy over a fortune in gold. (The El Dorado Gold Mine/The Treasure of Spada) By the end, the mentor dies thought not without leaving a fortune in the possession of his student, and the villains face punishment for their crimes. And the protagonist ultimately ends up getting to be with his love interest (Elena/Mercédès) and their son (Joaquín/Albert) to begin life anew. (cf. Movie Poll.)
The COVID -19 face mask and shield
Wearing facemask and shield is not the only requirement to protect us and transfer the virus to others, it is also mandatory to avoid touching our face, especially the eyes, nose and mouth.Top of FormBottom of Form
To touch is to believe and feel
Touching with unclean hands our extremities, nose, eyes and mouths, are the surest ways for virus infection. Not all touches are created equal. There are touches that are not permissible, as in the old Filipino custom of “no touch policy” between lovers or provocative and lustful touches of the opposite sex, deemed as silent advances. There are healing touches of a therapist or reflexologist.
After Jesus rose from the dead, Thomas the Apostle doubted the veracity of this news. He saw it with his own eyes when Jesus was apprehended at Gethsemane, how he was s condemned to death and died on the cross. He was adamantly saying that unless he touches the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and feet and put his fingers in his side, he would not believe.
Augustine commented that Thomas “saw and touched the man, and acknowledged the God whom he neither saw nor touched; but by the means of what he saw and touched, he now put far away from him every doubt, and believe.
The sensorimotor and perceptual capacity of a person’s exchanges with his environment reveals matured cognitive development. When either one of them is impaired, the person’s ability to function normally, physically and cognitively is greatly hampered. University of Southern California researchers found out that when a person looks at an object, his brain not only processes what the object looks like, but remembers what it feels like to touch it as well.
Benefits of doubts
Disappointment occurs when our expectations are unrealistic. Doubts about God’s love and care for us, skepticism about whether he listens to our prayers, and even loss of faith occur when we believe that because we have faith, we are not vulnerable to pain and suffering. The disciples were caught flat-footed. They expected that Jesus was a political Messiah who would set Israel free from the foreign domination of the Romans.
The apostles and disciples mistakenly expected Jesus to be what he is not. It is no surprise why all of them were seemingly disappointed with his crucifixion. Yet, it is in their disappointment that they found the Lord because they did not completely close off their heart to the possibility that his words would be fulfilled: he would rise on the third day. When we are wounded and disappointed but don’t refuse healing, miracles happen!
The apostle Thomas is our mirror image, we who want to be in control of things all the times, to probe and verify those things that we cannot see, hear, touch or smell.
In a society that is so engrossed with decoding all the mysteries and secrets under heaven and on earth, the attitude of Thomas is not strange at all. Yet, one thing that distinguishes our society from what had happened to Thomas is that the apostle kept an open heart and mind to the truth.
The fifth dimension
The Gospel according to St. John arranges four sets of post- resurrection reactions to the appearance of the Risen Christ. The first reaction is the visit to the tomb by Mary Magdalene early in the morning. Her reaction is a cautious suspicion in seeing the empty tomb. In telling the news to the disciples about the absence of the body from the tomb, she suspected that “they” stole it away. This visit sets the stage for the second reaction: the visit of Peter and the Beloved Disciple to the empty grave.
Even though Mary Magdalene, Peter and the beloved disciple are already aware that Christ is risen, yet Gospel’s passage describes that most of the disciples are still cautious and fearful of the Jews, so they are in hiding behind locked doors. (John 20:19) This gathering of the disciples is the occasion for the third reaction. The presence of the Lord in their midst dispelled away the gnawing fear and haunting doubt of the disciples.
In spite of what the disciples had told Thomas, who was absent when the Lord had previously appeared to the disciples, he refuses to believe everything on the basis of their witness. He still wants to personally probe the nail marks on Jesus’ body before he believes. When the disciples gathered again, Thomas rejoins them. According to Raymond E. Brown (A Risen Christ in Eastertime), Thomas who “doubted the most gives expression to the highest evaluation of Jesus uttered in any gospel: ‘My Lord and my God.’” The first chapter of John’s Gospel speaks about the Word as God. Thomas’ expression of belief in Jesus shows just that: that the Risen Lord is truly “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Thomas’ profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and God is the fourth reaction.
Jesus’ words to Thomas’ reaction comprise the fifth reaction: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Jesus is concerned also with our reaction, the fifth, to his resurrection. We do not see the burial cloths rolled up nicely; we do not run like Peter and the beloved disciple to find an empty tomb; we do not weep like Mary Magdalene looking for the body of Jesus; unlike Thomas we do not ask the Risen Lord to show us his wounds and nail marks. The Lord knows that we do not have the same post-resurrection experiences of his early disciples. In spite of the absence of all what the disciples had been blessed with, we still believe that the Lord has risen and we trust his promise to us that we too will rise with him Even though we only see him with our eyes of faith, we still believe. This merits us the same blessings that he bestowed upon the disciples and Thomas.
During this pandemic we are enjoined to wash our hands properly with soap and water before and after eating, and after using the restroom. Hopefully, handwashing continues even after the pandemic.
As a supervisory chaplain at The Metropolitan Correctional Center of San Diego (US Department of Justice), I have witnessed how Muslim inmates perform the Wuḍūʾ(Arabic: الوضوء al-wuḍūʼ [wʊˈdˤuːʔ]). Wuḍūʾ is often translated as “partial ablution”, as opposed to ghusl (“full ablution”), washing the whole body, or tayammum (“dry ablution”), replacing water with sand or dust due to its scarcity, its harmful effect on the person or some other reason.
It is the Islamic procedure for cleansing parts of the body, a type of ritual purification, or ablution. Wudu consists of washing the face, arms, then wiping the head and finally washing the feet with water and is an important part of ritual purity before praying in Islam. The rules concerning hygiene are governed by Fiqh. (cf. Wikipedia.) Muslim inmates sprinkle themselves with perfume with the intention of pleasing Allah.
In Judaism, ritual washing or ablution, takes two main forms: Tevilah (טְבִילָה) is a full body immersion in a mikveh, and netilat yadayim is the washing of the hands with a cup. Ritual washings are found in the Hebrew Bible and are elaborated in the Mishnah and Talmud.
Handwashing is mentioned in the New Testament when Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that a riot was starting. Instead, he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd, and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. See to it yourselves!”. Pilate saw that there was nothing he could do and that the people were starting to riot., out of fear of the Jews and losing his power (Matthew 27: 24). This is a classic example of
shrinking from one’s grave responsibility of standing for the truth – condemnation of innocent Jesus. Pilate traded in his obligation with vain power and tangential prestige.
Why is the mouth so salient to stave off the life-threatening contagion? My oncologist informed that whatever gets into the mouth affects our health.
We have to watch out what goes in and out of our mouth. If we are not careful, the mouth and nostrils are the number one channels to be infected with COVID-19.
There are phrases, such as “watch your mouth”: saying rudely someone should not have said something or “put your money where your mouth is”: support your stated opinion by acting on it, investing on it, or betting on it. Also, “bad-mouth” (someone or something) – to say bad things about someone or something, a noisy or boastful or foolish talker; “a big mouth” or “all mouth and no trousers”, to talk about one’s plans. by word of mouth – by speaking rather than writing, orally, from person to person revealing of confidential matters; “laugh out of the other side of the mouth”, to change emotions so quickly.
Jesus Christ criticized Jews of his time for having been careful with what goes into the mouth, but did not pay much concern with what goes out. “Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Matthew 15: 10-11.)
Halal and Kosher
MuslimandJews have different food preparations. What is not in accordance with the proper slaughter of permissible animals to be cooked is considered non-Halal Halal foods are those that are: free from any component that Muslims are prohibited from consuming according to Islamic law (Shariah). Processed, made, produced, manufactured and/or stored using utensils, equipment and/or machinery that have been cleansed according to Islamic law.
Haram is another Arabic term which means impermissible, sinful, forbidden or unlawful (in Islam) and consumption might result into sickness.
Permissible foods for the Jews are Kosher, Hebrew term kashér (כָּשֵׁר), (/ˈkoʊʃər/). In English it means “fit” (for consumption), according to halakha (law) and observes the Jewish dietary regulations of kashrut (dietary law). (Leviticus and Deuteronomy.) The food that is not in accordance with law is called treif (/treɪf/; Yiddish: טרײף, derived from Hebrew: טְרֵפָה trāfáh) meaning “torn Koshera. It is originally referred to non-kosher meat only. In Exodus 22:30 it is written, “Do not eat meat from an animal torn in the field.”
If separate ovens aren’t available, Halal meat should be cooked in a separate container to non-Halal, and the Halal meat should be on the upper shelf with the non-Halal on the lower shelf to avoid contamination.
The Jews require that Kosher food be prepared from any kettles, ovens, etc. that are exclusively for Kosher food, otherwise the food is contaminated and became a non-Kosher.
“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) So, the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?’ He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; but their hearts are far from me. their teachings are merely human rules. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!’ (Mark 7: 1-9.)
Social distancing, also called “physical distancing,” means keeping a safe space between yourself and other people who are not from your household. To practice social or physical distancing, stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
Social distancing has not only the benefits of not contaminating others or us getting contaminated. It is as well a big help to stave off those whom we don’t like or consider as persona non grata.
“He who knows not,
and knows not that he knows not,
is a fool; shun him.
He who knows not,
and knows that he knows not,
is a student: Teach him
He who knows, and knows not that he knows,
is asleep; Wake him.
He who knows, and knows that he knows,
is Wise; Follow him.” (Arabic proverb.)
Spiritual directors remind us how to avoid temptations. If they are proximate make them remote by concentrating on something else or focusing on things holy. For instance, if you, by any chance, glance on nice legs of a femme fatale, divert your eyes away from them. If you keep gazing at them, they are proximate occasions of sin.
We pray for those whom we “unfriended” at Facebook, the unlikable ones who can lead us astray from the truthful and Godly path. We keep a distance from our enemies, but pray for them.
Social distancing from our family, loved ones, relatives and BFFs sow in us seeds of various emotions and depression. Don’t despair, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Handwashing, covering our mouth when coughing and yawning, using a handkerchief or a napkin when sneezing, stop talking when the mouth is full of food and talking softly or away from the crowd when using the cellphone are signs of good moral and right conduct.
The family is the nursery of human characters. An individual learns them at home and continuously and repeatedly practice to master them.
We don’t need COVID-19 to observe good moral and right conduct. For all the harmful impacts of the contagion, at least, for those who have never learned or forgotten good manner and right conduct, it is never too late to assimilate them.
Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, we can be morally sound and uprightly conduct ourselves or be Unhappy and Hopeless Fools!