Weekly Update 6/11/2020
“He fed them with finest wheat and satisfied them with honey from the rock.” Psalm 81 (80): 17
Several years ago I went to a liturgical conference in New York City, it was about this same time in June and Manhattan was filled with tourists and commerce and all the schools—preschools, elementary, secondary and universities– were still in session. I have been to New York several times over the years and there isn’t an experience quite like it anywhere in the world.
I stayed in a little hotel and commuted to and from the New York University campus around 40th Street by foot—about a 2-mile walk from where I was staying. The neighborhoods I walked through on my way each morning were filled with activity and diversity; businesses and offices beginning to open their doors, coffee shops, delis and restaurants all filled with activity so early in the morning in the “city that never sleeps!”
The conference was the New York iteration of an international movement to preserve tradition and beauty in the Sacred Liturgy, both in the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the celebration of the Mass. I had attended the first conference in Rome about two years earlier. I don’t remember any of the presentations at either conference particularly, but I enjoyed the time away and subscribed, personally, to most of the insights presented. It was good to reconnect with colleagues I had met in Rome, previously, and catch up with some of the priests I had been in seminary with years before.
The New York conference ended on a Thursday, that under the old calendar of liturgical celebrations and feasts, was Corpus Christi. The Mass celebrated on that evening was spectacular with a Cardinal presiding, bishops in attendance and secular and religious priests sitting in choir. The most memorable moment of the entire conference, and the moment that still fills me with joy—even so many years afterwards—was at the end of the Mass there was an extraordinary Corpus Christi procession with the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of New York City.
The procession left the church and went directly out into the street. Traffic had been stopped as the Blessed Sacrament was borne across Madison Avenue and then another block to Third Avenue, then up the middle of the avenue to three churches waiting to receive in procession the Eucharistic Lord with the celebration of Benediction.
As we made our way through the streets, amidst the stopped traffic, people came out from their high rise apartments, and folks got out of their stopped vehicles to watch as Our Lord passed by…many dropping to their knees as the Body and Blood of Christ passed before them. The Procession ended at Saint Vincent Ferrer Church in midtown Manhattan. By that time, the procession of 300 clerics had been joined by countless faithful, all holding lit candles as we accompanied Jesus—sacramentally present in the Host carried in the monstrance, held by the Cardinal, under a beautifully adorned canopy carried by four Knights of Malta—on that marvelously memorable feast day.
There are too many obstacles in our way this year, under these continuing unusual conditions, to have such a celebration in Zanesville.
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is an occasion for us each year to celebrate the joyful aspects of the great gift Jesus left us on the night before He died, His continuing presence among us in the Most Blessed Sacrament. The somber tone of Holy Thursday obscures the wonderous and miraculous presence of Christ in the Eucharist. His totality is contained within this great sacrament—His Incarnation and ministry, His teaching and Passion, His sacrificial death, Resurrection and Ascension into heaven. The totality of His humanity. The totality of His divinity. All truly, substantially, sacramentally contained within the humble and meager “accidents” of bread and wine.
While livestreaming is a wonderful way to connect those who can’t be with us on Sunday, because of age or infirmity, it cannot duplicate the experience of drawing near to Christ in this great sacrament or even begin to present the unfathomable riches of sweet and Holy Communion with Christ and His Church, the Mystical Body, gathered around His altar of sacrificial love.
As public places are continuing to open-up, consider beginning your return to the public celebration of Mass. I know we all will have our own set of criteria and each will have their own level of comfort. Believe me, there are places I feel uncomfortable going just yet. But, be assured we are observing all the protocols of social distancing and are exercising abundant caution and extreme charity in this moment as we patiently wait for your return.
From my heart to yours, in the hearts of Jesus and Mary—
Peace and blessing,