If you have a garden and can get some greenery, then get enough to give a piece to each person in isolation with you.
If you cannot cut some greenery but have a potted plant, place that on the table – it will remind you and anyone with you of the strange year we are in.
Sit down around the table you are normally at for meals. If you do not have such a common table, then sit around where you normally eat.
Sisters and brothers, this Sunday we gather as individual households or alone in our homes. In all instances God is with us, the Christ is among us, and the Church is at prayer. This prayer resource is for you this Sunday.
You can divide religions into those that are most at home in the large public space and those which are most at home in the domestic space. For most Christians the choice has never been visible: they own many big buildings – and that is where religion takes place. If it takes place elsewhere, that is really just ‘a follow up.’ Christians seem to like big public statements.
But it is startling to recall that the original eucharistic meals – where the followers of Jesus wanted to be distinctive from their fellow Jews – took place in their homes.
‘Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke the loaf at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts’ (Acts 2:46).
In this domestic scale, they were in tune with their Jewish roots. Every meal was to be an occasion at which those gathered blessed God (Dt 8:10); the weekly meal with which the Sabbath began was a special act of praise, and the most special night of the year is Passover meal when God’s liberating deeds are recalled around the table. This year – in most places – Christians are going to have to rediscover this domestic liturgical space.
Professor Tom O'Loughlin has sent us something to reflect upon during this time of 'retreat'.
This collection of Table Liturgies is intended for those who wish to use a Grace before meals that recalls the meals Jesus celebrated with his followers. Some will regard them as Agapes; others will understand them as Eucharists. When we eat bread and drink wine in memory of Jesus, we are doing what he asked us to do. These liturgies have all been used by small groups of Catholics in the UK over the years and modified as necessary.
Some are very brief and ancient, such as FROM THE PSALTER and THE JEWISH BLESSINGS. Others belong to the first century of the Christian era, such as COME JESUS SAVIOUR and BROKEN BREAD. The liturgy AT TABLE, comes from the 1984 Vatican De Benedictionibus [Book of Blessings, ET 1987] and others have been written by modern-day Christians.
These liturgies therefore make heavy use of the work of others, ancient and modern, and some of these are listed in the bibliography at the end of this booklet in OTHER RESOURCES.
by Thomas O’Loughlin
Thomas O’Loughlin is Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham. A fuller version of this article appeared in New Blackfriars, vol. 100, number 1086, year 2019, pages 171-183.
Meet any group of Catholics today and within minutes someone will mention that their diocese or local area is undergoing a ‘re-organisation’: parishes are being combined; the ordained ministers being spread more thinly around communities; and the access to gathering for Eucharistic activity being curtailed. The process is sometimes given an elegant name derived from analogies with businesses that are ‘down-sizing’, but this does not hide the reality that this is driven by two key factors: fewer and ageing presbyters. Moreover, there is little prospect that this situation—even with the addition of presbyters from Africa and India—will change any time soon.
In answer to this, we need to reflect on the basics of ministry and not merely imagine that what has been the paradigm of ministry in the Roman Catholic Church since the early seventeenth century is either set in stone or in any way ideal. Rather than being an ideal, it was instead a pragmatic response to the Reformation which, in terms of Trent’s vision of ‘the priesthood’ (a sacerdotium), was perceived as an officer-led rebellion that was to be prevented from recurring.