COVID-19 and the Church’s reaction to our raw need for worship

Mass-browsing, “presiding” by yourself and communion individual from Mass all beg the concern: why are we resorting to these actions and nevertheless calling them worship?

While we can acknowledge the raw, human will need for sacramental everyday living and Eucharistic communion in a environment that is falling apart, why won’t be able to we reside with the practical experience of decline and obtain non secular nourishment there?

Is it our collective absence of imagination that compels us to minimize our central sacramental motion to a Tv set demonstrate or generate by way of communion stall? Does this all demonstrate that we have a sizeable theological difficulty inherited from hundreds of years of sacramental individualism and liturgical functionalism?

COVID-19 has exposed the existentially raw will need for worship and communion. It has also uncovered the shallowness of functionalistic liturgical pondering that ignores basic theological concepts in the rush to assuage the deeply individualistic and consumerist “theology” that underpins our liturgical techniques.

Phone calls for Holy Communion outside the house the Mass, the refusal to accept communion on the hand and in a person type, no communion from the chalice and on line masses have highlighted in lots of publications.

Numerous content articles canvas the concern of Eucharistic celebration in these remarkable periods and some even suggest that Canon Law could be a starting up position in the discussion.

Church regulation is not the reply

It is not, since Canon Legislation is not theology and the thoughts raised by this disaster exist at a degree that law — civil or ecclesial — are unable to deal with, by the very character of legislation alone.

If everything, Canon Law is portion of the challenge it is the far too routinely applied reference for knowing Christian worship. A authorized approach in the long run results in being legalistic, slim when it relies on “exceptions” in purchase to understand its very own rule.

The present liturgical and sacramental crisis is a disaster of liturgical theology. A genuine discernment of the disaster commences there, aided — secondarily — by anthropology, sociology and psychology.

If we settle for the standard premise that Baptism is the sacrament of entry into the Church and that the Eucharist is the sacrament of participation in the lifestyle of the Church, then sacraments — of which the Eucharist is one — are element of the financial system of salvation, the fruits of the Paschal Secret, of whom the Trinity is the resource.

Consequently, the act of worship — leitourgia — is the proclamation of the Pascal Mystery, via which “the get the job done of our redemption is completed” and in this leitourgia “the devoted — clergy and laity — are enabled to specific in their life and manifest to many others the secret of Christ and the actual mother nature of the legitimate Church” (Sacrosanctum concilium2).

Beginning in this article presents us our operating premise that sacraments as ritual-liturgical actions are not person playthings, neither are they work opportunities for clerics, nor are they products and solutions to be marketed online or bartered with governments.

This is the necessary starting off issue.

Theological Discernment

The recent theological problem, on the 1 hand, is to reassert an genuine theological foundation for the celebration of the Eucharist as the shared participation of the baptised, the two laity and clergy.

And, on the other hand, it is uncover reliable worship tactics that specific the raw, existential will need for communion when this is not bodily feasible.

We will have to deal with the two abundance and deprivation, for which the use of on line Masses, or communion divorced from the Liturgy of Term and Sacrament, are not the remedy.

An reliable and genuine Eucharistic liturgy ought to specific the foundational unity concerning the Eucharist’s experiential and ontological elements.

The experiential component makes certain we do not method the Eucharist as magic, or in purely objective phrases. It ensures we just take very seriously our human participation in the sacramental action as an crucial aspect that operates in us and not just on us.

The experiential element is not a purely cognitive one particular both, due to the fact the Eucharist is a multi-sided actuality, and no a single ever completely comprehends its consequences on oneself.

The Eucharist’s ontological dimension reveals the existence of God and the mother nature of salvation. The ontological component makes sure that the Eucharist is not dealt with as a subjective or own encounter that memorializes an ancient celebration for my unique gain by itself.

The ontological dimension of the Eucharist is the real re-presenting of the Paschal Mystery — in sacramental type applying liturgical rituals — that celebrates and proclaims God’s existence and action in the world.

Ontologically, the liturgy expresses the genuine leitourgia of redemption.

The ontological dimension helps prevent us from approaching the Eucharist as a personal possession. It stops us using the Church’s sacramental reaction to God’s leitourgia of salvation as a religious product to be exploited for personal piety and religiosity.

When the marriage involving the experiential and ontological factors of the Eucharist and its liturgical celebration are broken, the consequence is a pervasive individualism that sustains a privatized strategy to sacraments and nurtures an distinctive “me and Jesus” mentality that thwarts Eucharistic communion.

To be genuine, the Eucharist need to be freed of magical and mythical proportions that arrive from a weak experiential understanding and an insufficient ontology.

Genuine Participation

Eucharistic worship in Vatican II’s Pauline Custom, to be reliable, should often categorical the energetic participation of all the baptized.

Active participation elucidates how clergy and laity do the job with each other in a solitary act of worship explicitly, the communion they obtain is the same.

Their eating of the identical bread and drinking from the exact same cup is the liturgical articulation of the scriptural revelation: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give many thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the system of Christ? Because there is one particular loaf, we, who are lots of, are a single overall body, for we all share the one particular loaf” (1 Cor. 10: 15-17).

This is theology at perform.

Virtual and televised forms of Mass absence the experiential dimension because they can not express the four presences of Christ in the sacramental come upon. Virtual and televised sorts fail because they cannot express the Eucharistic liturgy’s ontological dimension and as a result they minimize mystery to magic, or even worse, to efficiency.

Digital and televised sorts are inauthentic types of Eucharistic worship due to the fact the digital liturgical act can’t encounter the human neighborhood as the subject of worship at the experiential and ontological ranges. They are inauthentic kinds for the reason that they incapable of carrying the indicating of the divine act they signify.

These who are viewing are not collaborating in liturgy, they are only searching at liturgical rites getting executed the presider — when by yourself — is not presiding at worship, he is ritualizing no a person is completely, consciously and actively collaborating in the one act of worship.

An equally essential — and overlooked element in this discussion — is the spot, purpose and requirement of the Liturgy of the Word in the Mass. While in the on the net forms the Liturgy of the Term is less complicated to adapt it is however not the full, prosperous working experience intended by the liturgy alone.

Most importantly, we are at chance of forgetting the vital inseparability of Word and Sacrament in the Liturgy of the Mass by leaving the Liturgy of the Phrase out of the debate.

Dealing with Deprivation

Our present and uncooked need to acquire is not the issue. Nor is our use of the virtual systems.

Our issue is that we are incapable of dealing with deprivation and unwilling to take hunger for what is: we can not take in, due to the fact there is no bread we cannot consume, mainly because there is no wine we can’t gather since there is no assembly we can not minister to or be ministered to for the reason that the Church is not equipped to obtain!

In the course of history, the Eucharistic liturgy has demonstrated great variety and versatility in type with the reliable unity of Term and Sacrament, priestly ministry and local community.

The communal character of the Eucharist is vital it is par excellence the sacrament of the Body of Christ.

The reality of the present second is that in quite a few Churches the Human body of Christ simply cannot acquire. It is our collective unwillingness to continue to be in the liminal place that is framing inauthentic responses.

Our deep sense of entitlement — in wealthy Churches — drives our stubborn incapacity to undergo the decline of the Eucharist. Mass on need in virtual formats has turn into one more sort of feeding individualist liturgical functionalism.

Could we have not suffered — for having said that long — the decline of the Eucharist as a transformative poverty? Could we not see this transformative poverty as the two experiential and ontological? Could this not be the way forward to a renewed comprehension of God as expressed in the Book of Exodus?

Liturgical Individualism and Functionalism

Liturgical individualism obscures the communal character of the Eucharist and liturgical functionalism works in opposition to participation.

The uniqueness of the Eucharist as an oft-been given sacrament is its gift, but it tends to make it susceptible to liturgical individualism and functionalism.

Frequency and accessibility have bred a subtle form of individualistic-functionalist wondering that sees the Mass, sacraments and priesthood as features of Church, concealed in legalist considering and formulations.

Liturgical individualism and functionalism are likely to reduce liturgy to ritual acts and worship to a cult of quasi-magic rites, where by individualistic human need to have is most well-liked over authentic human community and clerical general performance is hallmark of priesthood.

In this condition, the community is aspect-lined, Christian priesthood loses it presbyterial expression and God is incidental to the cultic-act.

Worship gets to be idolatrous when it gets the projection of human want and selfish wants eclipse the divine. When this comes about worship is no lengthier the response of the Church to the leitourgia of God, but the distortion of accurate religion and reliable liturgical cult. This sales opportunities to an impaired knowing of God.

When we get to this predicament, the intimate unity of the Eucharist’s experiential and ontological factors individual and come to be antithetical to each individual other. This leads to an above-compensation that leads, in convert, to new distortions and bigger problems in the foreseeable future.

The paradigmatic character of the Pauline Eucharistic liturgy is a solution to this. It plainly suggests that the sacramental motion requires put within just the community—the human body of Christ in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit — wherein the collected, sacramental group receives the Term of God and the Eucharistic features as a unity of folks less than a single God.

When this is absolutely understood individualism and functionalism have no place.


At the time just one has determined to comprehensively price reduction the Eucharistic liturgy’s participatory mother nature to just take refuge in a pervasive individualist functionalism, then the worship — Eucharist — gets to be a further product or service for consumption or bargaining chip of foyer groups.

At this position the theology of the Mass as sacrum convivium should really be dispensed with, along with the theology of the Mass as a foretaste of the fulfilment of God’s do the job, and we should flip to regulation to control behaviours.

Because of COVID-19 we are observing the extent to which our strategy to worship is deeply rooted in an individualist, functionalist method to sacraments and priesthood.

This raises critical queries for liturgical/sacramental theologians from whom we have to have steering in get to have an understanding of the complexity of the interrelationships among the components of worship — symbols, sign, humanity, history, divinity — that weave together the liturgical rites.

This kind of theologians will need to articulate the ‘divine pedagogy of the salvation’ — the leitourgia of the Trinity — that is ‘rooted in development and in human culture…and entirely unveiled in the person and operate of Christ’ in the act of worship (CCC, 1145).

Last but not least, could we be sure to have some creativeness and quit dealing with the Eucharist as a product to be offered on-line, like a reserve, or a merchandise to be sent, like a pizza.

That we have sunk to the issue wherever we take care of the follow of our central sacramental ceremony as a item to be offered to satisfy individual needs in the absence of the baptized assembly, is truly disheartening.

J.P. Grayland has been a priest of the Diocese of Palmerston North (New Zealand) for just about 30 decades. His hottest ebook is titled: Catholics. Prayer, Belief and Diversity in a Secular Context (Te Hepara Pai, 2020).