The past 15 months in the life of the world have brought many unique dynamics affecting just about every aspect of our existence. My natural inclination toward optimism led me to hope that because the entire world was battling a virus that we, as an entire world community, would come together, and in the face of this global challenge, we would become more united. I am disappointed that a greater sense of human nature has not risen to a greater degree, manifesting more collaboration and unity. Such is the imperfect human nature. I thought that if there was ever a common foe for the entire world to fight, a pandemic would incite urgency and the best of human collaboration would emerge.
We are still in the process of addressing many Covid related issues, so the story is not over yet. Let’s hope for some blessings to surface as we move forward.
Now that many restrictions and protocols have been lifted, I am amazed by the energy of our liturgical celebrations. Confirmations, weddings, funerals, reconciliation and, of course, our Eucharistic celebrations have come alive again with renewed energy. A reopened atmosphere has welcomed many of you back to church, and those of you who have been coming all along are experiencing a new freedom.
Here are just a few of the liturgical dynamics at this moment in time:
We can ALL sing now. However, I have noticed a hesitancy by some of us to do so. Perhaps we have gotten used to not singing. We should all sing, joining our voices to enhance the unity of our prayer.
I strongly encourage us all to continue receiving Communion in the hand. Please consider coming forward, reaching out, opening your hands nice and flat to indicate an open heart – a heart to receive the greatest gift there is, the Body of Christ. The health concerns associated with this practice have actually helped in the theological and spiritual practice of receiving Communion that is suggested by our larger church – in the hand.
I have noticed we are stating our name again as we approach the Eucharistic Minister to receive Communion. Perhaps the absence of the physical barrier of the mask has encouraged new freedom in this practice. Please say your name clearly, distinctly, even boldly so the minister can hear you and acknowledge you, thus adding a personal element to a very sacred moment.
The restrictions on hugs, sitting next to others not in your immediate family, and other physical gestures such as a sign of peace have now returned. I hope these warmly shared physical gestures enhance our appreciation of the REAL presence of each other, and thus renew our belief in and appreciation of the REAL presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We also no longer need to register for Mass and there are no limits on numbers attending.
We now continue with the ritual of having select people who represent the entire assembly bringing to the altar gifts of bread and wine. As this resumes, please be aware that the gifts represent all of you. The bearers are bringing YOU to the altar as an offering to God. I hope this gesture also inspires you to be intentional about what you bring to, and offer to, the mission of our community. Your financial gift is a part of that giving. Thank you for being aware of the various giving options available on our website.
We can gather in the Narthex again after Mass, which brings such energy to our celebrations and more personal and real ways to embrace and connect. Water is back in our fonts and it is such a tactile sign of blessing and spiritual life.
We presiders no longer need to wear masks or shields and that simply opens us up to a more dynamic and intimate connection with all of you. We can kiss the altar again as well.
I think you all know how passionate I am about receiving Communion in the form of the Blood of Christ through the cup. This practice may never resume, but I certainly hope it does for so many reasons of shared grace and communion.
I hope this short, incomplete list has deepened your appreciation for the power of ritual in our Roman Catholic worship tradition. We will continue to offer live streamed Masses to engage people much wider than ever before but, as the saying goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” And when they return, we always have added appreciation for what we have lost. Let us all appreciate even more what we have in our live worship practices.