In many Churches throughout the world yesterday, Presanctified Liturgy was either celebrated behind closed doors, or was cancelled all together. We were blessed to offer Presanctified Liturgy at our host parish last night, but I was inspired by one comment by a mother shortly before the beginning of Liturgy. “The fact that I’m running to church tonight to commune my family in case it’s the last time during our most holiest time of the year, tells me that the devil is working on overtime to keep us out and us faithful really need to step it up.”
This comment made me think. As clergy we are often reminded of the encouragement of Saint John Chrysostom to celebrate every liturgy as if it is our first and last. In our case of Liturgy, it is meant to help us not become casual with the prayers as clergy. We must focus as if we are leading the Liturgy for the first time and devoted as if it is our last.
But that’s not what this mother was expressing. She genuinely meant that her family may not be permitted to receive Holy Communion again during this Great Lenten Season. So, she made sure her entire family was in Church last night and they received. I was impressed by her devotion as a mother for her children.
The Church wasn’t full, and nobody even felt the need to judge those absent, considering the seriousness of our current health crisis. Keeping in mind that we have recommended the faithful remain at home to avoid gathering in large groups, I wondered for their sake. What would happen if this was the last time that I was allowed to offer them Holy Communion in the Church?
The current health crisis aside, I pray for the day we each have the devotion of this mother, every week. Truth be told, we don’t know if this past Sunday was the last chance for us to receive Christ. What if we die tonight, having not received Christ? What if we squandered our last chance to receive Him ‘just so’ we could attend a sports game or sleep in because we were too tired from Saturday night’s party?
If we learn nothing more from this current health crisis closing our churches, at least let us learn to be devoted to receiving Christ. The Coronavirus will have achieved in one cancelled Liturgy everything that our Great Lenten Journey was designed to teach.
Before you ask, this mother is in Church practically every Sunday and other Feasts with her family. I pray she, and we, will have another chance to receive Him before we die.