With the Solemnity (solemn feast day) of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, the celebration of Mass with a congregation began again at St. Patrick’s. For those who were at Mass for the first time in months, things were not quite the same. The appearance of the church interior, while much the same was noticeably different with the white ropes blocking off rows of pews to ensure physical distancing. Parishioners, “checked-in” at the entrance, are wearing masks or face coverings and sanitizing their hands before taking their seats. Communion was the only procession and the usual manner of receiving was constrained by keeping as much social distance as possible. There was only one voice heard singing, if there was any singing at all. One voice proclaiming the readings and intercessions. We’re back but it’s not the same. The way we celebrate the liturgy certainly has changed.
Most people are resistant to change while some folks seem not to mind at all. For all of us now, change is a fact of life. There few areas of our lives that have not been affected or changed by the reality of living in a world caught in the grip of a pandemic. If nothing else, this time of pandemic has caused us to take a step back, to let go of our routines and patterns of daily life. For each of us, the world became that much smaller the more we isolated, stayed home, and stayed safe. Now, as if liberated, we are venturing out, embracing life and even one another as the world slowly returns to what we knew before. Fear, however, is still a reality in many people’s lives. That our church has reopened for Mass and it is possible to receive Communion again is wonderful but also risky for those whose health or age has left them especially vulnerable to Covid-19.
What remains unchanged is our faith in Jesus Christ who “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb13:8). It will be a while before we’re all back together at the celebrate of the Eucharist. Being separated from one another and socially distant even in church, we are still bound together by our communion with Christ who will see us through this time of pandemic. As we await that day, as we take small steps forward, I would share with you a prayer ascribed to Adel, the daughter of a great Hasidic rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezar, the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name). She prayed: “Lord, I know in the end you’ll help. But until you help, can you please help me.” We too know that in the end, all will be well again because our help is in the name of the Lord (Ps. 124:8) But until then, we ask the Lord to help us take those small steps forward as we persevere through all the changes we have to make while living through a pandemic. We’re back to church, it isn’t the same, but it is the same Christ Jesus who holds us together as a people faith, hope, and love for God and our neighbour.