Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. Ps. I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord.
Laetare! This is the joy of one stage of Lent completed and an anticipation of the joy of Easter which is to come to us from the cross. For the true Moses is Christ who, having delivered us from the bondage of Satan and sin, made us pass through the waters of baptism and having nourished us with His Eucharist, causes us to enter His Church, the true Jerusalem, a foretaste of heaven where the elect will sing forever the canticle of the redeemed.
Great is the joy of the Church as possession of these great riches, at seeing them unceasingly renewed in her and at her power of communicating them to men. In this spirit, halfway through Lent on the way to Easter, she calls on us to pause and take breath, to breathe, as it were, the beneficent air of grace.(Introduction, Fourth Sunday of Lent, St. Andrew Daily Missal, 1962)
While the liturgical season of Lent may be half over, I fear our real Lent is just beginning as the corona virus pandemic overtakes our country. If one never took fasting and abstinence seriously before, I think the current “fasting” and “abstaining” from petty indulgences like sports, bars, unnecessary (and unavailable) luxuries, and don’t I wish, stupid Facebook posts may force change in our spiritual lives.
The shelter in place reminded my husband of the scene in the Ten Commandments in which the Hebrews gathered indoors as the Angel of Death in the swirling mist passed over. It’s not that we stay inside and/or away from others that will save us, but what we do with that unexpected time away from our too-busy lives that counts.
In the Second Reading today, Paul urges us to
“Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”
Now we have been given time to do so. This time of pestilence may be our time of salvation.
Will we Catholics the world over, so blasé about the Sacrifice of the Mass, so casual in our practice, with so many “Catholic” in name only, realize what we have lost? No Mass, no Holy Eucharist to take within our breasts, no baptisms (although in time of need, a layperson can baptize), no weddings, funerals. No Sacrament of Penance, although a Maryland priest instituted a drive-through scenario. No “community,” which some say will be a terrible crisis. Ex-nun Karen Armstrong says we need to learn to be alone; we will face death alone, one-on-one with God, no matter how many people are standing around us. It is something we need to come to terms with, although I don’t think a pandemic is necessary for that. I personally think we need to be alone to make our connection with God. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6). You can’t make that connection during the Super Bowl.
Our shepherds and pastors across the country are urging us to keep the Faith while the church doors are closed. There are countless web links to online Masses, devotional readings, the Rosary, and the Spiritual Communion (has that even been taught to those under 40?). There is an app for the Liturgy of the Hours online, and links to radio programs and religious programming such as EWTN. Millions of Catholics have never heard of these things, never gave them a thought, but in this “fast” from physical church, perhaps their minds will seek out what they have missed in their education, what they are truly missing in their souls. This makes me think of the quote from Luke, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). By the grace of God, I hope so.
Earlier this month, I wrote about the Litany of Saints. Litanies were wrongly taken out of practice by the liturgical non-experts, after the Second Vatican Council (“why do you want to say prayers over and over?”) but I find the “Deliver us, O Lord” a soothing refrain. Old prayer books have many beautiful prayers we need today. Surely there is a prayer book in that old box of granny’s things you have in the back room. In fact, in perusing the St. Andrew’s Daily Missal, I wondered why I, myself, hadn’t been reading these Lenten daily readings from yesteryear. And then, as always the Lives of the Saints, handy enough on Google. I prefer the more recent ones, no hothouse flowers, these. St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Damien of Molokai. People who got their hands dirty working with the poorest of the poor, as well as their knees worn in prayer. Keeping the faith is a personal job we all need to work on for the foreseeable future. Put that in the schedule where the Starbucks visit used to be.
And at this time, I highly recommend beseeching the intercession of Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto, seers of Fatima, who succumbed to the influenza epidemic which began in 1918. Their example in great suffering and trial gives a genuine perspective to those of us sheltered in place, but not in faith.
This article, Laetare Sunday is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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