In our older, Roman tradition this Fifth Sunday of Lent is called Passion Sunday. “Passiontide” begins. We veil images and statues in our churches to commence a deepening liturgical sensory deprivation, our liturgical dying, until we arrive at the still, silent darkness before the Vigil of Easter. Then a sudden spark brings back the light and Holy Church springs from her tomb to new life. Let us pray that our own circumstances will, over the next swift weeks, rise into renewed joy.
Meanwhile, this time of epidemic will intensify. We will be deprived of wide movement. Some will experience the tomb of quarantine. This will pass, perhaps around Easter, a fortnight away, perhaps later. It will pass.
Far and wide bishops quickly obeyed the state. They cancelled Mass, closed churches. As a result, many priests applied their initiative and have started to live stream Masses over the internet and set up drive-through confessionals. The shattering of routine has forced us to, in the famous phrase of the United States Marine Corps, improvise, adapt and overcome.
Masses have not stopped. It’s just that you can’t attend them. That doesn’t mean that those Masses are not efficacious for the entire Church, Militant and Suffering, and for the whole world. Ironically, I am consoled that there are many fewer sacrilegious Communions being received. Perhaps the disruption will cause lackadaisical Catholics to wake up. I know that priests are reviewing and assessing their vocations and how effectively and better to serve the faithful.
Joni Mitchell sang “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” This is an opportunity to recover precious teachings and devotions of our Faith. For example, while we rightly aspire to receive Eucharistic Communion, the practice of making a Spiritual Communion is being recovered. It is possible that a fervent Spiritual Communion in the state of grace – you must be in the state of grace to obtain its graces – could be more beneficial than a Eucharistic Communion received as a matter of routine. There are many traditional prayers for making a Spiritual Communion and for making a perfect Act of Contrition when you cannot go to Confession.
There is much to be gained in this Passiontide of increasing deprivation.
We can benefit from learning to be still. There is much to review, reassess and reclaim for our Catholic identity and long-term spiritual gain.