by Ray Lyons
I’ve never celebrated a ‘private mass’, or made a ‘spiritual communion’; to my mind, both are oxymorons, for ‘where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the middle of them’ (Mt 18:21). So the invitation to ‘participate’ in the Easter Liturgies or Sunday Mass via the internet is equally nonsensical to me. I let the invitation pass on the other side of the road.
To some I’m sure they bring comfort. Watching. Yes. But is it participation? Do we participate when we watch a TV programme? No. We are an audience, not a congregation, still less the Assembly called together. We are gathered around millions of TV screens but we have not come together. We may laugh, or shout, or scream, but no one beyond those beside us hears us. We may believe what we see, but we don’t take part.
We are living through an extraordinary time, mostly confined to our homes, with shops, businesses, even churches closed, sacraments unavailable. Pastoral care from the officials of the Church is patchy at best, mostly non-existent.
by Thomas O’Loughlin
This year millions of us are locked in our homes. We are not going out to work, not going out to play, going nowhere to socialise. It is – so long as we are virus free and not one of those who have to try and tackle it or have to stay at their posts to keep the basics running – a bit like a big blank space. A shapeless empty time between BF (‘Before the Virus’) a few weeks ago (aka ‘normality’) and AF (‘After the Virus’) which will begin … when? … soon? … when normality, we hope, returns.
This year we can use that sense of a ‘blank time between’ to appreciate a part of the Christian year we usually skip. The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Holy Saturday is the great blank space in the liturgical year! Nothing seems to be happening: there are no special ceremonies, the Eucharist is never celebrated, and it is not even brought to the sick except as viaticum. In monastic communities the Liturgy of the Hours continues, but even here there is a sense of continuing the thoughts of Friday or a sense of simply waiting for the vigil that will herald in Easter. Most of the actual liturgical activity that does take place in communities is severely practical in nature: cleaning, polishing, preparing a fire, practicing ceremonies, arranging this and that – and complaining by the sacristan that some new idea just will not work because this is not how it is always done! But this gap in the liturgy has another value as a recollection of some aspects of our liturgy that are otherwise completely forgotten.
by Thomas O’Loughlin
Christianity – because of its use of the image of the cross – is often presented as a cult of death. Many Christians have collaborated in this presenting discipleship in terms of gloom, and prompting the wry comment from Nietzsche: ‘you Christians do not look redeemed!’ Here lies the great difference between, on one hand, what the liturgy of Good Friday wants us to experience anew, and, on the other, popular sentiment. Christianity is the religion of victory over suffering, sin, and death. This is why we call it good Friday.
While Mk 15:33-41 (followed by Mt and Lk) presents the passion as taking place in darkness (seeking to echo Amos 8:9), John – the gospel always read in the liturgy today – presents the events taking place in broad daylight: the mystery of the death of Jesus is a revelation, that which was hidden is now made clear so ‘that [we] may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing [we] may have life in his name’ (Jn 20:31).
by Thomas O’Loughlin
One of the skills that is not well developed among ordinary Catholics is that of taking a lead in a liturgical act: that is an action of two or more people which praises God through Jesus. This is not a widespread skill because usually there is a priest (or perhaps a deacon or a catechist) who does this – and we think of them as ‘the experts’ and tend to leave it to them. The expert acts, everyone else reacts. But that won’t work if you are in lockdown this Holy Thursday and Good Friday. So you or someone with you will have to act as a leader if you are to actually celebrate – which is more than tuning in to a celebration – these great days. Let’s not forget, everyone who is baptized is able to stand before God and lead some sort of worship – it is a basic Christian dignity.