These last several days I have had a peaceful time: sitting on the patio of the rectory in late afternoon or early evening, perhaps with my Rosary, perhaps with a glass of wine. I watch the birds going at it at the bird-feeders I have; I watch bluebirds preparing a nest in one of the birdhouses in the back yard. There has been a gentle breeze, and the temperatures have been so pleasant! Beyond the 15 or so yards from the back of the Florida room and patio to the retaining wall, I can stare out at what seems like the “forest primeval”—extensive and dense enough to hide my view of the church and office building on one side, and the Lexington neighborhood on the other. At the bottom of the access road beyond our back field there are pathways of creeks that remind me of the entrance into Narnia; the trees here in the back yard look more like Middle Earth.
It’s a serene, calming, pleasurable experience. And I am not happy with it. What’s wrong with this picture?
At those times of day I should not be able to be so comfortable and relaxed. I should be engaged: with RCIA, or with Finance or Parish Council meetings, with Knights of Columbus, or with Stations of the Cross and fish-fry supper. But since we are shut down, none of those important things is happening, and I am missing encounter with the true church of Our Savior. I always remember the saying of Fr John Robinson of blessed memory: “Church is what’s left over after the building burns down.” WE (and not the building) are the Body of Christ, living stones in the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
I know many people have been tuning in on our parish’s Facebook page to watch the Masses; even with one “server” (one of our deacons, on a rotating basis) to do the readings and make the responses, it’s very lonely; it’s also eerie. As I write this (Saturday, 21 March) we are marking the vernal equinox (1st day of spring). Days have been getting longer and longer—marching toward the summer solstice. This (and the longer sunshine of Daylight Saving Time) makes us happy, optimistic, excited. After all, spring break and summer vacation can’t be far away.
And yet, at the same time, we’re anticipating even more serious and restrictive measures that will impact Holy Week and Easter. Spring break has effectively been canceled on the beaches; summer “vacation” may well already have started for our elementary and high school students. Will there be graduations?
In the face of all this, we can remember the “social isolation” Jesus experienced in the prison of the high priest, in the presence of Pilate, in the desolation of the cross—and we can never forget this as the horrifying but real prelude to the Resurrection. We too will rise!
We can embrace this time as a time of grace: of a new kind of Lenten sacrificial giving and living. It can make us more sensitive to others in our community at greater risk from this epidemic. It can give us more time for prayer. In short, if we wish, it can be the vehicle for drawing us closer to Christ, and therefore lightening our loneliness.