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(Reproduced with permission)
The 21-day lockdown in India that began on March 25 is in its second week. We Indians are slowly getting to grips with our situation.
For practising Catholics and ardent churchgoers, the lockdown has proved a bit traumatic. They are scrambling to find ways to replace going to church.
Quite a menu of livestreamed and recorded Eucharist celebrations is available to choose from. There are online Masses and retreats, and last week even had a holy hour with Pope Francis imparting his special Urbi et Orbi blessing.
While these are soothing to some extent, I feel my faith shaken each morning when I turn on the news. Thousands continue to die and the numbers are increasing each day.
Many Christians of all denominations are not going to be able to attend Church services over the next weeks, and maybe even months.
Rather than film myself celebrating Mass for my friends, and sharing the video, which seemed, to me at least, bizarrely clerical and pointless; or simply preparing video or audio of a homily for the Sunday readings, and posting that; I felt that it may be time to try something a little bolder.
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.
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.