In his first letters to the Corinthians, the Apostle St. Paul says: “Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face.”
He was referring to the eternal life in the presence of God, of course. But during the Coronavirus pandemic, his reflection has acquired a new meaning.
For more than a month now, we haven’t been able to participate in public Masses because churches in Brooklyn and Queens are closed. The same is true for the rest of the dioceses in the United States and many other dioceses around the world.
Thanks be to God, so many of our parishes are able to offer a live or recorded video streaming of Holy Mass, Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and other spiritual activities.
Much creativity has gone into these events and we are reaping the benefits of these online activities. As good as these online Masses are, perhaps it’s good also to remember that they should make us long to come together as soon as we are allowed to do so to celebrate the Eucharist as a community.
As important as making a spiritual communion is at this time, it is important for us to not get used to doing so and not get used to online Masses. We should long, even more, to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist gathered together as the Body of Christ, the Church.
Does this mean that as the quarantine ends and conditions improve, parishes and individual priests should stop broadcasting their Masses? Certainly not — but we should remember that they are merely a stop-gap measure and not a substitute for our parish Masses.
The reception of the sacraments — and especially the Eucharist — can’t be a “virtual experience” forever. Our sense of belonging to the Catholic community also requires us to come together to pray and celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass.
The word quarantine means “forty days.” It probably originated in Venice in the 1400s to designate the 40-day period all ships were required to be isolated before passengers were allowed to go ashore during the Black Death.
Our quarantine started during Lent, another 40-day period of preparation for the celebration of the central mystery of our faith. The 40 days of Lent evoke the 40 years the Jewish people spent in the desert on their way to the Promised Land and the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the desert before He started his public life.
We have been in this “desert” for more than 40 days now and we still don’t know when our quarantine will end. We have been fasting without receiving the nourishment of the Eucharist and the restorative grace of other sacraments.
We should be looking forward to finishing this “desert” season and being able to go back to our communities. We can’t get used to being a “virtual Church.” We are meant to gather together for prayer and praise of our Lord and God. Please, God, we can do so together again soon.
But in the meantime, in this time of crisis, God bless the priests and parishes who are doing such a great job being present on the internet for the People of God. Your hard work in this new kind of ministry, that no one would have believed would have taken place in February or even in early March, is noticed and appreciated!