The advice we have received is that if we think we have been infected with the Coronavirus, we should put ourselves into quarantine for two weeks.
The origin of the word ‘quarantine’ implies that the period should be longer – forty days. That was certainly the meaning when the Venetians in 1347 stopped ships coming from plague areas entering harbour and made other ships and passengers wait forty days before landing. When the word first appeared in English in 1609 it was in a different context altogether as the period during which a widow had the right to remain in the family mansion. If she were to marry in that period, she would lose her ‘quarantine’!
Lent is also a period of forty days to commemorate the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted of the devil. Whilst it was a period of isolation in the wilderness, he was not shut away from the contagion of sin. The Gospels only recount three specific temptations and not the full forty-day struggle, but the sample shows us the means of his victory. At each point he quoted the words of his Father. He was separated from other human contact, but he was in continual communion with his Father and submitted himself to his will.
Quarantine might be our shutting ourselves away, and avoiding certain pleasures or activities we enjoy during normal times; but if it is to produce a growth and health in our soul, we need to shut ourselves away, and spend time with God in prayer and in his word. The best healing medicine is to be found in the cross of Christ. The work of the Spirit applies to our heart both the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice and the word of God.
Have a profitable and safe quarantine!