I looked at the last time I posted anything. Several months have gone by! I won’t explain why. There are numerous reasons—too many to count. I think my blog standings have diminished but they weren’t very robust to begin with. It takes effort to keep the flow going and my effort in that department has been nil. This inactivity, I will attribute to COVID-brain, and working 40 hours per week at a different job.
I am a spectator of sorts at what the world is presenting as news. I get most of it through screens of various shapes and sizes. I also get it from the reactions and behaviors of other people. The problem is, depending on the source of the “news,” depends on what we begin to believe about the world we are currently living in, and to some extent, what we believe about ourselves.
This Advent will be different for me because I won’t be celebrating some of the days in the usual ways with in-person Mass attendance. That has me thinking about how I will celebrate it.
Suffice it to say, Mass attendance has been pretty sterile lately, to put it mildly. I am not complaining but making an accurate observation. I ask myself, sitting in pews distanced from others while my face is masked, if this is what I signed up for? Well, in fact, yes; I did sign up for it as it is a requirement. Of course, being a cradle catholic, the practice of Mass attendance is all that I know. It has been several months of masked Mass attendance, assigned seating after “signing up” for Mass and a multitude of safety protocols in place. Yes, I am thankful for that, but I don’t want it to be the “new normal.” I guess God doesn’t always give us what we want.
The Mass is about our relationship with Jesus, but it is also about our relationship with others. Without “other,” it has been very difficult to have the relationship with Jesus and with ourselves. It is “other” which acts as a mirror to ourselves. Without this interaction, we begin to question our existence. Sure, we can exist virtually, but do we really exist in place and time on a screen? I suppose we are just a summation of our thoughts, feelings and desires anyway, embodied by flesh and blood. I think it is the element of human touch and closeness that we all crave and can be considered a need right now.
When we receive Eucharist, we do receive Jesus, but for me, without fellowship after Mass, it feels as if the consummation of the sacrificial meal has not fully taken place. We receive His Real Presence through the Eucharist but if unable to be in relationship after Mass, I feel the “family” aspect has been taken away. No coffee and donuts, no tacos after Mass. No hi, how-are-you’s. No hugs or handshakes. We are all just robots.
How then, do we carry on this relationship with our church family? We don’t—until it is safe to do so. We have our little bubbles and places of work that become our family. How do we reach out in a time of drawing inward spiritually and for health-related safety? As best we can, through phone calls, Zoom calls, talking to the people in our households, sending cards and letters, giving to the needy. Through it all, He is there in our hearts and when we call on Him. He is there whether there be feast or famine. I would consider this time we are living in a famine.
Just the Essentials, Please
Many people and organizations try their hardest to do virtual programs. I am just not that interested in sitting in front of screen to do it. I have tried it, and it is just not that exciting. Maybe I am not desperate enough for human interaction because I am getting some interaction on a daily basis. In regard to the Mass, we do get the scripture readings and prayers of the Mass virtually, so there is benefit in that.
I have asked myself, what do we really need in life? Food, clothing, warmth, love and clean air, (especially after this fall in the northwest’s smoke-filled air). Which of these is the greatest? We need all of them to survive. Do we need all the extras? Probably not, but I do like the extras. Having them is like the icing on a cake. The extras make life all that much more beautiful. When push comes to shove, the essentials are where it’s at though. What I don’t want is for this way of life to become “normal.” It’s anything but normal. It is a prison. m The longer it lasts, the more the non-essentials are needed.
I Will Still Celebrate
The celebration will still go on. I have my Advent candles to light each week and that bring me into the season of hope and joy. I prayed a small blessing over them. This weekend I tuned into live-streaming Mass. I enjoy being able to listen to familiar hymns and scripture readings, and of course, the prayers of the Mass. That is what is getting me through this desert. After all we are supposed to be in a desert during this four weeks of Advent. It is a little like Lent but rooted more in joy.
I sat at the table today placing the candles in a holder and noticed that they were partially constituted of beeswax. Many things used in liturgical celebrations are made of real properties. For instance, fresh flowers placed at the altar and real altar candles, and incense. Fake candles or flowers are not generally used. I was pleased that my candles had beeswax in them. As I sat at the table, realizing that I won’t be attending Mass, I shed tears. I realized that the tears were a gift. I have been going through a spiritually dry season. The shape of the world has left me lacking in hope but I remind myself, that God is the author of life. God brought to me my tears of desire and me wanting to be with Him.
“The Cloud of Knowing”
Even without the external, physical items, there has been a shift in my heart. My heart “knows” the season. Have you ever gotten dressed for Mass and realized that you have dressed in the liturgical colors without having read scripture? That happens to me a lot. My sense of being just “knows.”
After all, Advent is considered a penitential season. It is a season of looking within and purging and allowing God’s love to work in our lives and through our lives; to be a shining light for others.
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