By Barb Arland-Fye
My husband Steve and I were latecomers to “attending” Mass together online during this nebulous time that a fellow parishioner refers to as Week (number x) of coronavirus.
We hoped our older son, Colin, would attend Mass with us in front of the big-screen TV last Saturday night but I arrived home late from my bicycle ride. Colin didn’t want to alter his schedule. After Steve dropped off Colin at his apartment later that night, we decided to attend a prerecorded Mass for Palm Sunday. We started watching around 11 p.m., which resulted in both of us dozing off after the Gospel reading of Christ’s joyful entry in Jerusalem!
“Should we try again tomorrow morning?” Steve asked, waking me from a dozing-off moment. On Palm Sunday morning, Steve and I sat on our comfy couch in the family room, turned on the TV and selected the YouTube broadcast of the Mass we attempted to view the previous night.
When the priest, a deacon and the deacon’s wife read “The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew,” I wanted a missalette to follow along with them. Our “domestic church” did not have a missalette available amidst the pile of magazines, newspapers and books stacked up on the coffee table. Maybe next time!
During the moment in Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus cries out and gives up his spirit, and everyone is supposed to kneel and pause, I turned toward Steve. “I can’t kneel,” he said. “My knee is bad.” My excuse? It seemed unnatural to kneel in front of the coffee table while watching Mass on TV. Next time I attend Mass online, I’ll kneel.
It struck me as sad to “hear” the emptiness of the church in which Mass was celebrated. It struck me as sad to see artfully arranged vases of fresh palm leaves that would not be distributed Palm Sunday because Mass throughout our diocese has been canceled to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
The priest’s homily spoke to me about our shared sacrifice … as a community of believers separated from one another for a time, for the sake of the greater community.
I realized how much I longed to receive the Eucharist when the priest invited those of us watching the Mass to pray the Spiritual Communion prayer. Unfortunately, Steve and I couldn’t pray it. I could not remember where I tucked away the prayer for safekeeping. I chose not to get up and search the house for it!
After Mass, Steve and I agreed that the experience fulfilled our need — to celebrate our faith in community, albeit a really small one. But I felt disappointed about missing out on Spiritual Communion. A quick search uncovered the prayer, tucked inside a cabinet in the kitchen. Steve and I prayed the prayer together. Then I retrieved my 2020 “Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word” to read Matthew’s Gospel and the commentary that accompanied it.
Matthew’s Gospel account of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus echoed the Hebrew prophets, who used cosmic upheaval and heavenly portents to reveal divine control and majesty, one of the workbook’s authors said. Now we’re experiencing earthly upheaval and realizing how much more we depend on God’s presence in our lives.
Steve and I will continue to attend Mass online but look forward to the day when we get up off the couch and into the pews to celebrate with our faith community.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye @davenportdiocese.org)