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The Coronavirus Diaries: The Power of Movement

The Coronavirus Diaries: The Power of Movement

Wednesday January 13

Mireia Vidal i Quintero reflects on what enforced movement, or lack of it, can reveal about the love of God.


As I write this, Scotland is under a new lockdown and I, like many others, could not travel home during Christmas.

We are still under the persistent influence of Coronavirus. It keeps us rooted to the spot, frozen in spaces that used to define our horizons, and now just happen to close in.

For the past weeks, I have been thinking of the power attached to movement, about the way it takes residence, and how it did so in Jesus’s times. There are, obviously, differences. But also some striking similarities.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that, by the time Mary was due, Caesar Augustus had issued a new decree and a new census was about to roll out. Everyone had to travel back to their birthplaces and register there. A census was one of the most intrusive ways by which the Roman Empire exercised its power. Its primary purpose was tax collection: how many people (or, rather, heads of household, since families were the basic taxable unit) were there in the Empire? What was their income? How much money could the State expect to collect? At the time, Judea might have been a more or less friendly kingdom to Rome, but it was under the obligation to pay taxes – something painfully experienced by peasants, small landowners or business owners, who were as well required to pay taxes to the Jewish government.

Thus, the pervasive influence of the Roman power was known not only by the payment of taxes but also by the movement of bodies: like Joseph, those heads of households living away from their birthplaces had to travel back. Some of them would have easily afforded travel, but some would have had a hard time. In any event, everyday life was put on hold because of an external power, whose demands took precedence over 'normal' life. The influence of the Roman power was beyond their control, nonetheless felt even in the smallest of the details –  something to endure in the best possible way.

This picture can be revisited today. While the Roman power was experienced as an obligation to travel, and forced people to remove themselves from the usual pace of life, the coronavirus 'power' is experienced as a prohibition to travel to our birthplace and in the disruption of our usual pace of life. For them, it was by way of travelling, for us by way of staying. But then and now, there is this feeling of unavoidable compliance (even for countries and states!), of being taken over by powers greater than the individual.

And in the same way that Jesus’s birth is rendered all the more vulnerable by Mary delivering in a barn, our smallness is effected by the impossibility of just hoppiing on the train or the airplane, and by the lack of patterns that would have signalled Christmas for those of us who live away from 'home'.

However, it is in this intersection where the Mystery of God is revealed and experienced once again: in a small child, the greatness of God was revealed, just as it is revealed in our isolation and our being away from family and friends. Because in this little and small universe that each of us embodies, God holds and embraces us. We may feel insistently stuck – I feel like that. Joseph might have felt questioned when leaving Nazareth. But, in one situation or the other, and out of our control as it is, God continues spinning us, because his eternal movement of love – so different from the Roman power over movement – is greater than any other.


Mireia Vidal i Quintero is studying for her PhD at Edinburgh University and is a member of the Spanish Evangelical Church.


The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

South Sudan: Being Positive
A Nigerian in Scotland: God is in Charge
Trinidad and Tobago: New Frontiers
Czech Republic: A Challenge for Everybody
Switzerland: An Outpouring of Solidarity and Creativity
The West Bank: A Landscape of Broken Dreams
Nepal: So Many Premature Goodbyes
Malawi: We Must Hold Each Other Close
Nigeria: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness
Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'