Today’s find: COVID-19 Communion

The Psalmist had a message for me – for us – as we gathered in the pews this morning. Which, you’d have to agree, is quite a trick considering that the verses were written 2,500 years or so ago.

On this, the second day that our parish resumed “public Mass” in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdowns, I noticed that a great deal has changed within our worship space.

Plexiglas in place.

Green tape cordons off half the pews. Seat markers have been placed in all the rest, to ensure that we Mass-goers maintain our social distance. Songbooks and missalettes have been removed. And a Plexiglas shield has been installed in one aisle, to serve as our Communion station. There are new (and apparently permanent) liturgical fixtures, too – new candlestands, a gargantuan crucifix – so many changes that the sum total was quite disorienting. I barely recognized the place. This place, my parish of record for the past 36 years, my beloved Holy Ground.

Frankly, I found the whole experience a bit disheartening yesterday…our first day back at daily Mass. My sense of loss was palpable: Yet another example of something precious and dear that COVID-19 has taken away. Beautiful, soul-stirring liturgy? Poof. Gone, at least for the foreseeable future. Gone, too, was a full and deep experience of my connection with the Body of Christ, my parish community.

Then into my sorrow, into my aching heart, broke Scripture.

Wow…what the heck happened to my Holy Ground?

The first reading today really caught my attention – a story from the Acts of the Apostles, recounting the time Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi. In the middle of the night, an earthquake breaks their bonds – but, curiously, they choose to remain in place so as not to subject their jailer to punishment.

It occurred to me that we have something in common with Paul and Silas. We current-day congregants – all masked up, like bandits – choose to relinquish a bit of our freedom in order to be fed here, at the Lord’s table. As we approach the Plexiglas shield, it even looks a bit like the visitor’s room at a prison.

Certainly, it is not an ideal situation for liturgy. Far from it. And I found myself pleading not unlike Paul’s jailer, who “asked for a light” to help make sense of all these strange happenings.

Moments later, the answer came in the form of those ancient words penned by the Psalmist. “Your right hand saves me, O Lord,” the Psalmist wrote… and I was reminded that even in this state of COVID-19 diminishment, we have not been abandoned by God.

Just the opposite, in fact: God enters into our isolation…our misery…and finds a way to feed us, again. A different way than I’m used to, for sure. But this COVID-19 Communion is real food, indeed. Eternal food…the bread of angels…shared freely – even with a bunch of sinners, all masked up like bandits.

As this light, this Eucharistic grace, dawned in me at daybreak, I found that I could then pray the rest of today’s Psalm with a much lighter spirit – and even a measure of joy:

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple,
and give thanks to your name.

Yes, much has changed about my worship space in recent weeks. But I’m grateful to be back at the table, being fed. And I realize, too, that I shouldn’t be so surprised about this turn of events. Instead of looking back, perhaps I should be asking for the grace to move forward. Christ promised us, after all, that he intends to “make all things new.” (Rev 21:5)

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Amen, Alleluia!

Raise our eyes to You, Risen Lord!

Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.

IHS

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7 thoughts on “Today’s find: COVID-19 Communion

  1. Mary Reck

    I found comfort in yesterday’s Psalm (#149): “The Lord takes delight in his people.” As much as I longed to again receive the Body of Christ, I realized God, too, longed for me! For each of us! Amazing Love!

  2. John, We are not yet ready to open for Mass. We have received extensive guidelines and Mass attendance will be severely limited to 10 people at a time. I’m not sure how this is going to happen at our parish. I am concerned for our priests in this area. Several have health issues and many are over 70. I am seeing many people in this area almost joyfully defying the guidelines. I fear we will have a dark winter ahead. This is certainly a time of trial for us all.

    I was able to get your book through Barnes and Noble. It just arrived yesterday. Even though Easter is behind us, I feel that I am on a Lenten journey. So, I will be using your book in my daily prayers. God Bless you and your family. I hope we all will be able to return to the table of our Lord soon. I am so thankful for technology during this time. I am discovering wonderful spiritual resources that help me get through the day. I find I attend Mass more now than ever before! I miss my fellow parishioners and I miss serving as a Eucharistic Minister, and I pray when this is over I will never again take Mass for granted.

    I am a Benedictine Oblate of St. Meinrad’s abbey in Indiana and they stream daily Mass and vespers. On Saturday morning a monk friend of mine prays the Rosary with us. It feels comforting to see the familiar faces and join in the prayers from that holy place. I also view Mass from St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN.

    God Bless.

    Dan

    • God bless you, Dan, and all your fellow parishioners…as the logistics for your return to “public” Mass continue to be worked out. And God bless all the priests who serve us — many of whom are indeed “of a certain age” but still put their fears aside to minister to us.

      As for me, I consider the mask (and the distance) a small price to pay in order to try to keep others safe.

      Keep up the virtual prayers—sounds like you have quite a holy network in place! And thanks for tracking down my book…let me know what you think of it!

  3. I think a mask is a small price to pay also. Our priest has 2 parishes to serve, so that is why things get a little more complicated for him. We will work it out with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Since he is streaming daily Mass now, maybe they can assign parishioners a time to attend Mass. I have heard that as a possibility in some places. We would have to register, I suppose. God is with us and we are Easter people!

    I have looked through your book and I like the format you have used. I am very sure it will be a blessing to me as all your posts have been. I always look forward to your reflections.

  4. Mary Kopuster

    Sacrifice…for real. And yet I’m not ready to say “the new normal” ! Thanks for sharing and leading it to a holy place and thought.

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