Though we were all expecting it, I was still shocked when I got the archbishop’s email cancelling all public masses until after Easter. I still can’t quite believe it.
It makes me realize how much I love the Eucharist. How much I need the Eucharist.
It makes me think of the Jesuit scientist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin, how there were times in his life when he wasn’t able to celebrate the mass—when he was a soldier in the French army during World War I, in the middle of battle—or later, when he was leading scientific expeditions, often by mule train, into the remote deserts of Western China.
What he celebrated then is what he later came to call the “Mass of the World”:
Since today, Lord, I your Priest have neither bread nor wine nor altar, I shall spread my hands over the whole universe and take its immensity as the matter of my sacrifice. Let creation repeat to itself again today, and tomorrow, and until the end of time, the divine saying: “This is my body.”
What moves me here is Chardin’s sense of unity with the natural world, and also with all of humanity. In fact, it was exactly in the trenches, in the midst of the horror of war, that he first felt this faith and this joy welling up in him, this solidarity with his fellow soldiers and this confidence that Christ is in all things. Even in the midst of war. Even as the shells were flying.
It’s very much the faith at the heart of what the Church has always called “Spiritual Communion” and that the archbishop has recommended for all us, until we can come together again. “I love You above all things,” we pray in part, “and I desire to receive You into my soul.”
And this communion happens, it truly happens, if we pray for it sincerely.
We will be in communion with Christ. We will be in communion with each other.
Maybe in our hunger for the Eucharist in the next few weeks and months we can come to better understand its depth and breadth and scope. Maybe in our hunger for the Eucharist we can come to understand the way that the Risen Christ is continually transforming all of matter into spirit, drawing all things to Himself. Maybe when we finally return from our exile, when we are finally standing together at the Eucharistic Prayer, we can feel more powerfully than before what really happens then–that when the priest elevates the host, when he holds the Body of Christ in the air before us, he is holding the world. He is holding the universe.