COVID-19. It took a week or so to really set in as to what life would look like while we isolate and practice social distancing which includes no celebration of Mass at church! Social media is flooded with virtual Mass and I have limited myself to a my church and my archdiocese.
Early during the U.S. breakout, I was able to go to pray during an approved time for gathering while social distancing at my church on a Friday during Lent. There were just a hand-full of people present. The area where I sat was sanitized afterward.
Right after the outbreak, our main baptismal font and fonts located by the door were emptied. I really miss blessing myself with holy water. Liturgically, the font is emptied or covered during Holy Week but this development was used as a protective measure.
As I was walking into the church that day, I thought back to how many times I have entered my church and the church where I grew up. I thought about the different reasons that I entered the church. How, through my life, the church was an essential part of my life, from attending Mass, to receiving the Sacraments like Holy Matrimony, Eucharist and Reconciliation. From bringing my children to faith formation and volunteering, retreats and pancake breakfasts. The list goes on. Each time upon entering and exiting, I blessed myself with holy water.
I was thinking, even though I was walking into a physical building–the church, the building itself was not the church. Yes, Jesus is present in the tabernacle at all times except for when in repose on Holy Thursday, and he is present whether we are there by ourselves or with other congregants, but how could we carry on with worshiping as a church without each other? We are there as witnesses to Jesus’ love for us as by listening to his Word and being present for Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the altar.
That is why this time is so hard, because it is this relationship with Jesus and with others which “animates” church for us. Humans are made for each other. Why do you think sporting events are so popular?
One of my favorite times to be in the church building is when there is no one or very few people there. I don’t know why that is. It is super quiet and you can actually hear the occasional creaking of the massive wooden ceiling beams. I don’t feel lonely then, because Jesus is present there. Sometimes I pray or say the rosary but most times I just sit in the quiet and “be.”
As the effects of the virus continues onward and the desire to begin reopening establishments by Easter, we need to accept that it may not be possible. Easter, on April 12th this year, cannot be postponed because it is not on the same date every year. Easter is based on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the vernal equinox. If it comes to pass that we are not able to attend church on Easter, we will get by and celebrate in spirit with a live-streamed Mass of our choice, preferably with our own parish. Even though many candidates and elect are welcomed into the church on Easter Vigil, I imagine (not completely sure) that they could get permission to be admitted during a different time.
We will relish the day when we can walk into the church building, bless ourselves with holy water and celebrate the test that was given to us. Maybe we came up with a different way of living that we plan to adopt. Maybe we lost a loved one to the virus or other causes and need the healing presence of God and our church community. For it is in community that we fully worship and come to know ourselves.
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