COVID-19, Pandemic, Eucharist, Digital Liturgy, Consumerism
Vatican II taught that the “Eucharistic sacrifice is the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11). For many, this Holy Eucharist is spiritual food to nourish the soul that has been worn down by the challenges of daily life. Participation in the communion ritual where we all share of this holy sacrifice allows the faithful to be truly one with Jesus Christ. We are more than one year into the global Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Our lives have been significantly altered by this new reality. At the outset of the pandemic, most of the world went into lockdown through “stay at home” orders. These mandated guidelines halted large public gatherings, closed all non-essential businesses, and restricted movement in public to the bare minimum necessary for essential needs. Until recently, when widespread vaccinations and the corresponding reduction in cases, we had been limited in what we could do, including gathering for mass in our churches. The initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic within my archdiocese of Los Angeles was limiting the number of individuals who can participate in indoor worship, moving mass outdoors, expanding the use of online liturgy and Archbishop José Gomez dispensing Catholics from the obligation to attend mass. From these overarching guidelines, each parish tailored an approach to suit their unique parish community. While these creative solutions had enabled us to continue to gather as a community, the reality was that a significant number of our parish faithful were not experiencing the full experience of the Eucharist liturgy. While the expanded practice of online liturgy had helped maintain some sense of community during the pandemic, the diminished physical participation of the Eucharist poses a challenge to pastoral leaders. As the months rolled on and more parishioners got accustomed to online liturgy without the physical Eucharist, did the ongoing and persistent practice of this form of liturgical worship become the "new normal" practice and if so, does this modified practice alter the believer’s understanding of Eucharist and correspondingly his/her faith? To help answer this pastoral challenge, I will begin by describing our parish’s journey into online liturgy and later into an adapted in-person liturgy when less restrictive public health regulations allowed us to do so. I will then consider how a ubiquitous digital realm and an equally ubiquitous culture of consumerism, both of which were active and present before the pandemic, influences our experience of liturgy. Following this, I will reflect on the problem through the theological lens of Scripture focusing on exile and community. A brief review of sacramental theology will be considered as well. Next, I will review what the Second Vatican Council taught about liturgy and community in its constitution of sacred liturgy - Sacrosanctum Concilium. The new context of liturgy we find ourselves requires us to consider the relationship between belief and praxis (liturgical theology). A theological reflection will conclude by considering how the concepts of worship space, community and presence can be re-imagined in a digital realm. Finally, a pastoral plan to address the questions and concerns raised will be proposed.
"The Diminished Experience of Liturgy in a Pandemic,"
Say Something Theological: The Student Journal of Theological Studies: Vol. 5:
1, Article 7.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/saysomethingtheological/vol5/iss1/7