Last week, I had the privilege of being with our confreres in Sherbrooke and Montreal for virtual visitations. With the confreres, as well as with members of the Salesian Family and colleagues, we frequently returned to discussions about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. There are feelings of loss in not being able to gather regularly with the young people around the Table of the Lord to give thanks. Some colleagues spoke of a hunger for the Eucharist, especially at the beginning of the pandemic when everything was closed. We have made some efforts to connect people in worship through live-streaming Mass, but we know this cannot replace in-person participation. There is a real concern that, having now been away from the regular practice of the faith, the people will not feel the need to return to Mass when the restrictions are lifted. I’m sure we have all had similar feelings and heard the same concerns.
The centrality of the Eucharist in our Salesian spirituality is felt deeply in our SDB communities and Salesian works. During the first three months of the pandemic, many communities added an hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to their daily prayer schedule. It is a reverent way to remember in this crisis that God is still present and in control. When we speak of the Eucharist as communion, we see how the daily Mass and Adoration have brought the Salesian religious closer together, but we acknowledge that the pastoral community will be weakened if it is not nourished by the Bread of Life. When we speak of the Eucharist as sacrifice, we can identify the heroic sacrifices of the medical professionals and frontline workers living a Eucharistic spirituality every day in the world. We also see the sacrifices the faithful make to come to church for the Mass, complying with all the safety protocols. When we consider the sending forth at the end of Mass, we are reminded of the call to live “Da Mihi Animas, Caetere Tolle” and to be a Church going out to the peripheries. During a time of pandemic, being sent on mission might mean simply showing fraternal kindness to those around us or reaching out to those who could not be present at the Mass.
The Paschal Triduum begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, at which we recall the institution of the Eucharist. We cannot adequately communicate in words or actions the fullness of this great mystery. Yet we have experienced the majesty and grace of this Sacrament of Love in a powerful way during this past year. As individuals and as communities, we understand through experience the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm, “Our blessing cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.” The joy and love, the sacrifices and losses of this year are brought together in the offering of the Eucharist. There they are joined to the offering of Jesus. And, by the working of the Holy Spirit, our lives are transformed into a communion with Christ.
The Roman Missal introduces the Paschal Triduum with these words, “In the Sacred Triduum, the Church solemnly celebrates the greatest mysteries of our redemption, keeping by means of special celebrations the memorial of her Lord, crucified, buried and risen.” May the celebration of the Lord’s Supper strengthen our unity, enflame us with charity, and make us authentic witnesses of our redemption in Christ.
A blessed Easter to you all.
Fr. Tim Zak