The Mass on my screen

I have just finished watching the Easter Friday service on my computer. It was sent by my local church – which is one of the finest parish churches in the country. And, when I say ‘nearer’ I mean that it is less than fifty yards from my house. The only human figure on the screen, the celebrant, was my parish priest. He has a fine singing voice, and I listen to every word of his exceptional sermons.

Some of what I write now will look odd to non-Catholics who use this site. Just forgive me: please pray for us, and we will pray for you.

Despite hermits, and such like, Catholicism has always been a social religion. Even praying on our own we include the whole Church: “Our Father” not “My Father”. The Mass itself is social: a kind of latter-day re-presentation of the Last Supper, and so leads up Holy Communion – where most of us will receive the Blessed Sacrament.

So that creates a problem for a computer Mass, even if it is not a recorded item but sent directly at the speed of light. I happen to be on my own, but in other circumstances my family and/or my friends could be with me. Nor can I receive Holy Communion. So it’s really second rate.

The problem for me is that I find the computer Mass much more satisfactory. First of all, I find a much stronger focus. I listen to every word, instead of being distracted by other people around me, or trying to find a spare place. I have to sit, kneel or stand – simple enough but less simple with increasing age. I can hear clearly every word from the altar. As for sermons – pot luck. We seem to have range of African priests – no doubt for excellent reasons. I can tell that they have spent a long time preparing their sermons but, for me at least, they are incomprehensible. In fact, most sermons are far too long. The exact timing of a computer Mass fixes the maximum time for a sermon – so I come away with a coherent message which I can then think and pray about.

But, of course, this is a computer Mass, you can’t really compare it with a real Mass which I can attend – or at least when the Virus allows me. Well I’m not entirely sure about that. You see, at a real Mass it all happens in our brains. We hear noises which our brains interpret into comprehensible language. We only have a sense of space because our brains are capable of interpreting the space. We are only aware of people around us because our brains tell us so. Without a loudspeaker system, those at the back hear the Mass fractionally later than those at the front. No one hears a word of Mass at the moment the celebrant says it.

So what? In the computer Mass it is just the same. Its occurrence – visibly and orally goes straight to our brain at the speed of light. In fact, the brain gets it fractionally faster than the attender who has to allow for the slower speed of sound. Is there any relevant difference between the two?

Of course we can’t receive Holy Communion. But do we think that Christ refuses us the grace of Holy Communion simply because our actual attendance is impossible?

About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Advocatus Diaboli, Bio-ethics, Neuroscience, Quentin queries. Bookmark the permalink.

53 Responses to The Mass on my screen

  1. pnyikos says:

    Computer Mass, as you call it, has been a good experience for my family on the whole. We are on a Stay-at-Home order and going it one better by having purchases delivered instead of going shopping.

    We are finding it very rewarding to “take pot luck” because there are so many online masses and other liturgical events (such as Stations of the Cross and Veneration of the Cross today, Good Friday) to choose from. We’ve heard homilies on some topics we’ve never heard homilies on before.

    We also have access to liturgies in other languages. The Masses coming from the Vatican are in Italian, and one of my daughters is quite good at it, so she was able to tell us the gist of the homily at the Vatican Mass today (noon our time, here in South Carolina). And I would like to find a webpage where there are Masses in Magyar (Hungarian); all of us are fluent in it and converse in it at least a few times every day.

  2. ignatius says:

    “Real” Mass takes place not just in the brain but in the heart and soul. ” Real” Mass shows us what we truly are, treasures in earthern vessels. “Real” Mass is where we bring our whole selves into the flesh and blood Church of God. “Real ” Mass shows us the ordinariness, the failures the pettiness that beset us and yet the beauty and majesty we have come to own.. Who cares that computer Mass is tidier and more to our personal taste..he came for sinners, not for computers. By all means enjoy the programme and unite yourself to it with a ‘spiritual communion’ but don’t kid yourselves that it is the same thing.

    • pnyikos says:

      No, spiritual communion is not the same thing as the Holy Eucharist, and the following prayer of spiritual communion by St. Alphonsus Liguori acknowledges that while also providing a bit of its spiritual nourishment:

      My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
      I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
      Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.
      I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
      Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

      This being Good Friday, I might mention that St Alphonsus’s Way of the Cross is less to my taste than many others are. One of my favorites uses the mosaics of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Here is a long list of links, including this basilica.

      http://www.dacapofoundation.com/ClickYourSelection/StationsOfTheCross/IndexStationsOfTheCross.htm

    • David Smith says:

      ignatius writes:

      // By all means enjoy the programme and unite yourself to it with a ‘spiritual communion’ but don’t kid yourselves that it is the same thing. //

      Yes, it’s something totally different. I’m disappointed that so many bishops apparently are comfortable locking up churches and substituting television images for the communal experience. I’m afraid that this is a bad portent for the future of the Church.

      When we watch video images of people, our brains trick us into imagining that we’re experiencing real life. We’re deliberately and willingly deceiving ourselves. All the physical richness is missing. There are no humans there. Touch the screen and touch only glass. We’re no more at mass when we watch video images of a mass than we would be were we “attending mass” by telephone.

      • milliganp says:

        I tend to concur; as someone raised on the maxim “the blood of the martyr’s is the seed of our faith”, I find the whole obsession with willing compliance with secular thinking deeply worrying. If people can social distance in Tesco’s, could they not do it in a church? Priests have been forbidden con celebration, even when they live in the same presbytery.
        Even worse, we have been forbidden to hold funerals in church and most graveyard chapels are closed – so for burials only a short graveside service is possible. Yes, we can always have a Mass later but the way we deal with death is an integral part of our faith.
        But the real loss, I fear, is that we seem to have decided NOTHING is essential to the practice of faith. We can never step back from that – God is a god of convenience the numinous and transcendent are just emotional responses rather than spiritual realities,

  3. John Nolan says:

    If Quentin was indeed able to view the liturgy for Easter Friday (Feria Sexta infra Octavam Paschae) his computer is truly remarkable. Can it tell us the winning numbers for the national lottery in advance of the draw?

    • pnyikos says:

      I didn’t catch that detail when I read Quentin’s article. I’d be very surprised if it was anything but a mild “senior moment” that kept him from typing “Good Friday.”

      I don’t know how it is in other languages, but the Hungarian name for today literally means “Great Friday.”

      One peculiarity in Hungarian is that its word for Easter, Húsvét, is literally “meat-buying.” I only learned that a few years ago, because every Hungarian I’ve ever heard using the word pronounced it as if it had the short u (like the oo in “book”) rather than the long ú (like the oo in “food”). We will go on saying it that way because it sounds irreverent to use the long ú.

  4. pnyikos says:

    The only human figure on the screen, the celebrant, was my parish priest.”

    Quentin, is it this way everywhere in England, unless more than one person lives in the rectory?

    Here in the USA it is quite different: the Stay at Home order of the governor of South Carolina, worship services are classed among “Essential Activities”:
    6. Attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues, or other houses of worship.
    Worshippers are still subject to the clause that mandates “social distance,” so they stay at least two meters from the nearest person.

    The First Amendment to the US Constitution grants freedom of press, speech, religion, and peaceful assembly. All four are relevant to this item, directly in the case of the last three. Other constitutions say similar things, but I don’t know of any other country that takes these freedoms as seriously as we do.

    Anyway, the upshot is that every live streamed Mass we have seen so far had several people present, including some lay persons, who do the readings that come before the gospel.

    • David Smith says:

      pnyikos writes:

      // Here in the USA it is quite different: the Stay at Home order of the governor of South Carolina, worship services are classed among “Essential Activities” //

      Do your bishops allow attendance at mass in churches?

      • pnyikos says:

        I do not know what other dioceses are doing, but our bishop, Robert Gugliemone, does not go beyond the following in the official diocesan webpage on the Covid-19 crisis:

        “The Diocese of Charleston considers the health and well-being of our people to be the highest priority. We are following the directives of local, state and federal health authorities in establishing health and safety precautions throughout the state.”.
        https://charlestondiocese.org/covid-19-response/
        South Carolina has a significant and growing “Hispanic” population, so the same message is written in Spanish.

        I’ve quoted the relevant part of the state directive issued by Governor McMaster, and have not heard of any local or federal directives that are more hard-lined.

      • pnyikos says:

        Correction: while our church is open for private prayer, and quite liberally (see my reply to ignatius earlier today), Masses are only open to a select few, hand-picked people. This is apparently Diocese-wide: no “public Masses.” I think the rationale is that it could prove quite difficult to ensure that people maintain proper physical distance at something as habitual at Masses. And the last thing our priests want is legal sanctions on account of not ensuring that the governor’s executive order is fully complied with.

      • David Smith says:

        pnyikos writes:

        // And the last thing our priests want is legal sanctions on account of not ensuring that the governor’s executive order is fully complied with. //

        Yes, in our increasingly secular, materialistic, and utilitarian society, politicians do not now hesitate to forbid public masses. Who’d have imagined that eight weeks ago – except, perhaps, in China? Among Americans’ vaunted constitutional freedoms, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly have been eviscerated, and that happened suddenly, without warning, almost overnight. Building up a civilization takes a great effort, as does maintaining it. Destroying it is easy.

  5. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    // The exact timing of a computer Mass fixes the maximum time for a sermon – so I come away with a coherent message which I can then think and pray about. //

    Why should there be a clock running on a televised mass? Who’s waiting in line? Oh, maybe you’re referring to ceremonies broadcast by television stations, rather than those “live streamed” on the Internet. For the latter, there are no time constraints.

    // We seem to have range of African priests – no doubt for excellent reasons. I can tell that they have spent a long time preparing their sermons but, for me at least, they are incomprehensible. In fact, most sermons are far too long. //

    Well, on televised or streamed masses, there could be subtitles. Though I imagine bishops would frown on that as being discriminatory, implying that Father A’s English is less comprehensible than Father B’s. Can’t have that. Let the people offer it up.

    • milliganp says:

      The problem is not merely one of pronunciation; many African priests are preaching to a different culture (and I suspect this was also the case when Dutch and Irish priests led missions in Africa).

  6. Geordie says:

    I agree with Quentin about the focus of the mind when the Mass is on the computer screen. I know it is not attending Mass as we should but it is still very welcome.
    One aspect I found strange in the Good Friday liturgy; Cardinal Nichols advised his priests to have a spiritual communion like the laity. Our bishop followed his example so our priests were instructed to do the same. To my mind this was wrong. Receiving the sacrament physically as Our Lord intended is much more important than trying to keep in step with us. The priest should be receiving Holy Communion on our behalf. It smacks of political correctness.

    • pnyikos says:

      “Cardinal Nichols advised his priests to have a spiritual communion like the laity. Our bishop followed his example so our priests were instructed to do the same. To my mind this was wrong. …It smacks of political correctness.”

      It also puts the priest in the dilemma of what to do with the consecrated hosts and wine. The tabernacle can only hold so much wine, and so I suppose the priest who believes in the True Presence [one might wonder whether Cardinal Nichols does] will have to put only a small amount into the chalice for consecration at each Mass.

      Worse things have happened: I’ve read that the recently exonerated Cardinal Pell, while in prison for over a year, was at one point denied wine and unleavened bread with which to celebrate Mass.

      • John Nolan says:

        pnykos
        The consecrated wine is not reserved in the tabernacle. The only exception is that a small phial containing the Precious Blood may be used to communicate a sick person who is incapable of receiving the Sacrament in form of bread. After the evening Mass on Maundy Thursday the Blessed Sacrament is transferred to the altar of repose in a ciborium, and this is used for Communion on Good Friday. In the pre-1955 rite the priest puts a particle of the Host into a chalice with a ‘rinse’ of unconsecrated wine and consumes both.

        Cardinal Nichols should heed the clear instruction in Sacrosanctum Concilium: ‘No-one, even if he be a priest, may add, remove or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.’

    • pnyikos says:

      Geordie, was this directive of Cardinal Nichols only applicable to Good Friday, or is it a continuing thing? Did it apply today, Easter, for instance?

      If so, it looks like between the two of us, John Nolan and I have some serious questions for you to ask of your parish priest, and if he cannot resolve this issue, then it should go up the line, to Cardinal Nichols himself and possibly higher.

      By the way, according to the following CNA article, Cardinal Pell was not allowed to say mass at all while in prison.
      https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/holy-see-responds-to-high-courts-acquittal-of-cardinal-pell-55691
      Since his incarceration added up to over 400 days, that means he missed out on at least 55 Masses. So your parish priest, and all other priests under the jurisdiction of Cardinal Nolan, aren’t quite as badly off as Pell was.

      Peter Nyikos

    • milliganp says:

      I want to avoid being rude but that sounds very much what one would expect of the Cardinal.

  7. John Nolan says:

    Talking of over-long sermons, there are two occasions where a homily is out of place. One is at the afternoon liturgy on Good Friday; the other is at the Easter Vigil. On both occasions it is better to let the liturgy speak for itself.

    With so many live-streamed services there is an opportunity to shop around and broaden one’s exprience. Tenebrae is a case in point. Most Catholics have never heard any of the sung Office, not even Vespers. Now they have the opportunity, and can at least put into context what they read in ‘Brideshead Revisited’ – Quomodo sedet sola civitas.

    Yesterday I came across the Good Friday liturgy live-streamed from Holy Cross, Woking, a beautiful church in the French gothic style, once the chapel for an Anglican order of nuns, now owned by the SSPX. The rite was that of 1955. The Passion was sung by three deacons (or priests acting as such) and the last passage relating to the burial of Jesus was sung in the ancient ‘Gospel tone’, which many believe is derived from Jewish Temple chant. The other chants were as in my 1961 Liber Usualis and were well done. Thy included the Improperia and the Crux Fidelis.

    No lapsing into the vernacular at any point (Deo gratias!). I rarely attend SSPX churches (the last time I did was in Brussels, which is otherwise a liturgical desert). Yet in the intercessions they specifically pray for Pope Francis, since they are not schismatic. I did notice that they used the 1955 formula for ‘pro Judaeis’ rather than Benedict XVI’s alternative prayer. The ‘flectamus genua’ was included, and ‘perfidiis’ was dropped.

  8. Quentin says:

    While reading the interesting discussion on this subject, I find that I did not express one aspect clearly. I fear that happened because I have led a philosophy group for many years. A bad habit I must suppose. Had I put my question to a philosopher his answer would have been that the relationship between knowledge and reality has never been demonstrated. If he was wordy, as philosophers can be, he would mutter about Plato, Descartes, Bishop Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Locke and Russell. They all majored on the topic, and they all failed. And so do we. Kant, I would maintain, gave the best answer. He said we know nothing about time, place or causality, but we have to accept them because in their absence we cannot even start the process of thinking.

    So we have three parishioners: A,B & C. A sits in the front row, the priest’s words go directly into his ears. B sits at the back, he hears the priest’s words carried by electricity to the loudspeaker. C is in the house next door, he hears the words on his computer. What is the significant difference?

    A has perfect vision, he sees the priest, and the congregation, directly. B is short sighted, he can only see the priest through his spectacles. C is blind. Which of these is more ‘present’ at Mass?

    Neither A, nor B. nor C are allowed to go into the church for good reasons. So they watch it on a computer. The are seeing the celebrant, watching the Mass and deliberately taking part in the Mass, as far as that is practicable.
    Would we properly describe them as attending Mass, or merely as watching it?

  9. ignatius says:

    No, this will not do, A,B and C are not categories but human beings.
    C knows where he sits, he knows how many steps from the entrance and the feel of that particular grain of wood where he sits. C recognises the voice of Laura and Dick who sit usually behind him on the right. Dick is (B) short sighted and a bit impatient with his advancing years, Laura is long suffering and wears a floral dress. (A ) watches Laura as she and Dick keep an eye on C as they head back to the pew. A’s keen sight takes in the line of parishioners shuffling past into the mystery before them.A notices who genuflects and who does not, who takes the host by hand and who by mouth. C listens for the softly spoken words:”The Body of Christ” and feels the wafer pressed into his hand. B meanwhile has lost focus and is thinking about the fence that needs painting.
    Mass is not abstraction, Mass gives meaning to the mystery it presents. Philosophers have thoughts but Mass has substance.

    • Quentin says:

      Ignatius, I happened to read your comment 5 minutes before my local parish presented Sunday Mass to me on my computer. It was simply splendid (and inspired me to send a prayer for you).
      I am left with a question: did I simply listen to the Mass, sitting in my study, or did I genuinely participate in that Mass?

      • ignatius says:

        Hi Quentin’

        I’m sure there are plenty of profound theological insights abounding and available on the internet at the moment, perhaps a fruitful discussion on your question can be forthwith entered upon by all! Here is my tuppence worth:
        You participated as fully as you could within the current strictures. With the full blessing of the church, your participation was genuine. I guess there are three things to think about. Firstly it is probably the case that because of our sin none of us ever participate fully in the Mass, but we come as close as we can with hearts as genuine as may be mustered, then we rely on our Trinitarian God to bring us kindly into His presence. Secondly it’s worth considering that our celebrating Mass together is a gift which we are given, not necessary to Gods happiness but necessary for ours; the gift is given regardless because God is a giver. Thirdly to give mental assent is to genuinely participate, but the Body of Christ is a real solid thing, the church assembled probably has a sacramental presence which, ‘makes up’ somehow a fullness which is lacking when we do not physically meet …

      • David Smith says:

        Quentin asks:

        // I am left with a question: did I simply listen to the Mass, sitting in my study, or did I genuinely participate in that Mass? //

        I suppose the official rationalization must be that it’s up to you. Church buildings and even the clergy can be talked away if this sort of thinking moves towards its logical end. Imagine a virtual Vatican, virtual parishes, a virtual Eucharist. Here we go.

      • David Smith says:

        I’m completely serious, by the way. There’s a practically ecstatic little article in the current Spectator praising the unsuspected joys of the lockdown Church online. Think of all the money the Church will save by no longer having to maintain schools and church buildings. And think what a perfect solution this will be to the clergy shortage. And think how every theological variety of Catholic can now be perfectly pleased: no one will ever again have to watch and listen to any teaching that grates on his sensibilities. There’ll be something to please anyone and everyone.

        Quentin’s African missionaries can return home, where they’re desperately needed. And my local Hispanic parish will no longer be burdened with an Anglo pastor whose Spanish is perhaps a little less that perfectly comprehensible. Everyone wins. What’s not to like?

  10. ignatius says:

    Happy Easter all..He is Risen! In being so he demonstrates that which the philosophers cannot. The Risen one is the bridge between knowledge and reality.. 🙂

  11. galerimo says:

    Thank you Ignatius and the blessings of the Risen Jesus, his peace and courage, be with you and with us all this Easter.

    I am delighted to be celebrating mass with everyone in this e-way. All communions are spiritual even when there is sexual intercourse. E- Mass is really business as usual.

    Our Eastern brethern, if I am not mistaken, give a good prominence to the prayer to the Holy Spirit, sometimes referred to as “Your Holy Angel” to make things really happen at the mass.

    I fell, because Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow that when we ask the Father to Send His Holy Spirit to make this bread and wine into the body of Christ – it works.

    Not like a magic trick – but in a way that makes Jesus present for us who have come to be with him and each other, whatever the gravity, or geography or mileage involved.

    A lot of people confuse faith with church attendance.

    It is so exciting to be celebrating mass today with a bit less dreariness. It makes me feel very much at home when I see the same things happening on the screen as happen also in church.

    Turning on and off microphones, uncertainty with readings and hesitant responses and things missed – makes it feel like “the old days”.

    I am sure there were people at mass rocks who would have had to attend at a distance so as to keep an eye out for the “police”.

    Martyrs and persecuted followers who would have had to celebrate the word and the Body of Christ in very obscure surroundings.

    Its an old Church and she’s seen a lot of different pandemics as well as other social pressures. It is so good to live to experience things differently always with the certainty of Resurrection.

    I shed a tear when I heard the bells ringing during the Gloria today, sitting in my garden under a blue sky, I am sure I felt like Magdalene, thinking Jesus wasn’t there as he stood right in front of her, in the garden.

    A local church minister has a sign outside her church here that reads “We usually get 40-50 people on Sunday – this week between 700 and 800 visited us on line”

  12. ignatius says:

    I guess, if we were to follow Quentins interest about attending Mass ‘or not’ then we might have to ask one or two questions. The first and very interesting question would be along the lines of
    “What IS Mass..precisely? When we DO Mass, what actually are we doing?

    The second question would be something like
    Is mass as we usually understand it a Sign or a symbol?
    If Mass in its physical presence..i.e what we normally do, is a sign then does virtual mass carry the same significance or is it essentially a symbolic act?

    • David Smith says:

      ignatius asks:

      // If Mass in its physical presence..i.e what we normally do, is a sign then does virtual mass carry the same significance or is it essentially a symbolic act? //

      It’s an act of the imagination, no different from “attending” mass while seated or kneeling in front of a painting or a photograph of a mass.

      • ignatius says:

        David writes:
        //It’s an act of the imagination, no different from “attending” mass while seated or kneeling in front of a painting or a photograph of a mass//
        Thanks for this insightful comment. I think I agree. One caveat however. The ‘painting’ of Mass we see when tuning in may possibly have the function of an icon? This means that a measure of grace is received as the imagination engages with the mystery.

      • David Smith says:

        ignatius writes:

        // The ‘painting’ of Mass we see when tuning in may possibly have the function of an icon? //

        Surely. A representation, a reminder, an inspiration, a focus for meditation. But since it’s constantly in motion and noisy, I wonder whether it might not scatter the attention rather than focus it.

  13. David Smith says:

    Resurrexit est.

    Best wishes.

  14. Geordie says:

    In answer to Peter Nyikos question, the spiritual Communion for priests was a one off; only on Good Friday.
    The other point I would like to raise is with regard to the consecrated hosts. There is no consecration on Good Friday. Before Vatican II the service was known as the Mass of the Pre-sanctified and as far as I can remember none of the laity at the service received Holy Communion. After V II everyone receives Holy Communion but there is no consecration. On Good Friday Holy Communion is distributed to all present. There is no question of storing the Precious Blood.

    • John Nolan says:

      The term Mass of the Presanctified refers to the pre-1955 rite. This, like the other services of Holy Week, was renamed and considerably altered by Pius XII, and in the opinion of many (including Cardinal Heenan and Pope John XXIII) not for the better. The offering of Communion to all present dates from this time.

      My favourite Paris church, St-Eugène in the 9è arrondissement, has started using the pre-1955 Ordo and this was live-streamed this year. There was one change – the prayer ‘pro Judaeis’ was replaced by that composed by Benedict XVI.

      Although the term ‘extraordinary form’ refers explicitly to the 1962 Missal, what underlies Summorum Pontificum is the principle that the Church does not abolish orthodox and legitimate rites, something that Rome at last appears to accept.

  15. ignatius says:

    So, Quentin,
    Did you attend Mass or not??

    • Quentin says:

      I believe in the validity of the computer Mass. But, because the Church is a community (cf Mystical Body), I have an obligation ordinarily to express this through regularly attending my parish Mass. I am fortunate to live right by my church. Others may find this more difficult. In normal times I would choose my parish church.
      We have assumed that our computer Mass is direct. But what is the status of a recorded Mass?

      • David Smith says:

        Quentin writes:

        // We have assumed that our computer Mass is direct. But what is the status of a recorded Mass? //

        Slippery slope.

      • galerimo says:

        It’s wonderful to follow your unceasing questioning and constant thought provocations.

        There’s no way everyone could have heard Jesus or even seen more than an occasional glimpse on those few recorded events when he engaged with the multitudes. Feeding the thousands being one example.

        I find it hard to believe they were less engaged or less blessed than those in the front “pews”.

        Looking at Mass as “a Memorial” and the unique theological understanding of “memory” helps me with your questions.

        We don’t just recall a past event, we become part of that actual event through this “memorial” process of Eucharist.

        Physical proximity to the Passover Meal/Crucifiction is the least requirement for this memorialising-

        And, conversely,I hardly think all those masses for centuries said by priests on their own facing a wall were not connected with us or our fellow baptised, past, present or future.

        I really appreciate this time when the Holy Spirit is showing us so much of the beauty and truth of the Eucharist by challenging so many of our habits and beliefs to deepen our faith.

        Our intentional space created in the electronic company of others works on many levels of memorial, communion and community.

        I feel like a mother pleased to see her children fed first when I watch another physically receive communion on screen when I am sharing in Eucharist.

        Joyful and happy in the knowledge that no way are God’s hands tied by the sacraments.

  16. Alasdair says:

    I have attended virtual mass and the services offered by many other parts of the body of Christ in the last two weeks.
    I have no doubt that God credits to us fully our communion with him in this manner in spite of Satan’s best, and failed, efforts to separate us.
    Significantly, two days ago, our first minister “paid tribute to churches, Christian leaders, and volunteers for demonstrating the kindness compassion and love fundamental to Christianity”. “Church leaders and volunteers so often put others before themselves to help our communities”.
    So we are a shining light visible even to atheistic pillars of secular society.

  17. ignatius says:

    Quentin,

    I haven’t been following any of the streamed masses, either I forget or the link gets stuck when I try. I have the keys to my church though and so am able to say morning or evening prayer before the sacrament.
    After mulling it all over and seeking various opinions I have come to the conclusion that the question is in a way somewhat spurious. We remain in communion with the Body of Christ fundamentally by acting within it. Currently part of the expression of this communion is what the church terms a spiritual’ communion and is sufficient for the day we find ourselves within.

    We are required to attend mass ass best we can and as often as we can in the form being offered to us by the church in its authority as the body of christ. To ask whether eucharist takes place over the ether or not is, I think, a misunderstanding of some kind. Clearly we do not take into ourselves the body and blood of christ…something else happens and that something else the church considers to be, as I say, sufficient for these difficult times. Quite clearly a recorded mass can only function as a form of modern icon, rather like the Hospitality of Abraham for example..

    • pnyikos says:

      “I haven’t been following any of the streamed masses, either I forget or the link gets stuck when I try.”

      We had that experience on Easter Sunday, Ignatius. Fortunately, the sticking was at the other end: we had to wait a full 20 minutes before Mass began, but the celebrant waited until the technical difficulties were at an end before beginning the Mass.

      After that, there were a number of stickings; fortunately almost all of them were only a few seconds in duration, and we did have copies of the readings. When the transmission resumed, we were quite close to where the priest was.

      On occasion, I’ve experienced a different sort of live streaming. In nationally televised, live-streamed programs, one actually picks up exactly where the glitch began. Of course, this means we get way behind what is actually going on, but that is not a real problem. And it wouldn’t be a problem if Masses were live streamed in this way.

      ” I have the keys to my church though and so am able to say morning or evening prayer before the sacrament.”

      In England, this makes you one of the fortunate few. Here in South Carolina, in my parish at least, the church is open most of the day for private prayer. One restriction is that no more than 50 people are allowed to be in the church at any one time; another is that we need to maintain a physical distancing (not social distancing, even though that is the misnomer in common use) of at least two meters between the nearest person not in our immediate family.

      • ignatius says:

        //In England, this makes you one of the fortunate few. Here in South Carolina, in my parish at least, the church is open most of the day for private prayer.//
        Oh that we in England had chosen the same path.. gathering before the sacrament allays many fears and helps bring out the best in us.

      • David Smith says:

        ignatius writes:

        // Oh that we in England had chosen the same path.. gathering before the sacrament allays many fears and helps bring out the best in us. //

        I believe pnyikos may be fortunate even in America. He lives a few hundred miles south of southern Ohio, where we live. I stopped at a church two days ago in the late afternoon or early evening. There are three front doors, and all were locked. If other churches are open, anywhere, I’d love to know about them.

        I posted a suggestion here a few days ago, but WordPress seems to have made it invisible. Here it is again, slightly edited, for what it’s worth:

        Suggestion: Have a live video camera and microphone in the nave of the parish church, perhaps a third of the way back, focused on the altar, at all times, 24/7, during this time when both Church and state have forbidden Catholics to visit their churches. Stream it live on the Internet.

        That’s all. If there’s a mass happening, don’t move the camera and mike around, just leave them there, showing a fixed image with, usually, no more movement than the flickering of the small candle behind its red glass.

  18. Alasdair says:

    ”We remain in communion with the Body of Christ fundamentally by acting within it. Currently part of the expression of this communion is what the church terms a spiritual’ communion and is sufficient for the day we find ourselves within“.
    Yes, and we act within it as we carry out the sacraments by whatever means are still available. This part of our Christian life is made more difficult. However the other part of our Christian life is enhanced greatly. The opportunities to show our Christian love within our communities and be a shining light are greater than ever. We are doing it and people are seeing it and speaking about it.

  19. ignatius says:

    “Joyful and happy in the knowledge that no way are God’s hands tied by the sacraments.”

    However it is wise to remember that sacramental life is both the gift and purpose of God for us. Also that the eucharist is a physical presence, physically given for physical human beings. Galerimo makes a good point that eucharist in itself is towards God as much as towards us and that when Mass is offered it is offered as and for the whole world. On the other hand I thnik Galerimo would be hard pressed to find a priest or theologian in agreement with this statement:
    “Physical proximity to the Passover Meal/Crucifiction is the least requirement for this memorialising”-
    I have discussed this general topic with a few priests by now and the consensus is that attendance at Mass in its fullness involves the physical assembly of Gods people, this is my view too so, like David Smith with Quentin, I am personally very wary of statement such as this:
    “Our intentional space created in the electronic company of others works on many levels of memorial, communion and community.”
    A slope, probably also a very slippery one.
    I do agree though that this time calls us to reflection on what it is we think we do at Mass and how we relate to our faith both as individuals and as to the body; as such we are in a kind of extended lenten fast.

    • galerimo says:

      Physical proximity to the events that took place at the Last Supper and at the execution of Jesus on calvary was only possible for those who were bodily attending there at that time.

      It is through “doing this in memory” (the anamnesis) and by invoking the Holy Spirit (epiclesis) that we become participants in these realities in our time and in our different locations.

      No denying that such action is from within the community of believers called together for this eucharistic purpose and commissioned from within that eucharist to serve others.

      Jesus certainly did not give us the sacraments in the form that we practice in the Catholic church, this has been entirely our own doing over centuries.

      At a time like this, even though it is a scary time indeed, we still have a wonderful opportunity to reflect again on the heart of what we do at Eucharist when we can no longer do it the same old way.

  20. ignatius says:

    ///On the other hand I think Galerimo would be hard pressed to find a priest or theologian in agreement with this statement:
    “Physical proximity to the Passover Meal/Crucifiction is the least requirement for this memorialising”-//

    Sorry, this needs a bit of contextualising:
    The church has always emphasised ‘proximity’ hence the requirement of an ‘apostle’ was to have been someone who had been physically with Jesus. When Jesus broke bread and poured out wine it was to emphasise embodiment and without embodiment there is no death nor resurrection,

    Unless we allow ourselves a free pass into ‘anything goes’ blue sky thinking it is plain that Mass is about the unbreakable bond/covenant between God who is spirit and Mankind who is corporeal.
    This is why, under the current dispensation of things Mass, taken as re-presentation, is a physical act and cannot be substituted.

    As I have said elsewhere above I completely concur with the spiritual act of communion we are all making at the moment but it is, I am pretty convinced, a kind of mistake to claim the two acts are the same when they are clearly and palpably not the same. We do not need to ‘justify’ our current situation before God, there will be no thunderbolts for not tipping up at the church with hands outstretched when we all know the door is shut. I finish with a ubiquitous and very helpful saying we have in the prison: “It is what it is” 🙂

  21. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes:

    // I finish with a ubiquitous and very helpful saying we have in the prison: “It is what it is” 🙂 //

    My version is “what is is” :o)

    It takes an effort to resist the external forces moving us around or holding us in place, especially when resistance would threaten to disturb the comfortable situation into which we’ve settled.

    My wife and I are reading, as I think I’ve mentioned, Trollope’s “The Warden”. The central character is in such a comfortable place, as the prebendary warden of a small almshouse provided for in the will of a deceased parishioner. He’s a gentle, kindly old clergyman who lives comfortably but modestly with his younger daughter, his music, his house, and his garden. That peaceful existence is suddenly threatened by the impulsive actions of a zealous young reformer, who kindles a controversy by implying publicly that the warden is living luxuriously off funds that a correct interpretation of the will would give, instead, to the old men who are lodged in the almshouse. Septimus Harding, the warden, is mortified. He cannot bear the thought of being thought ill of by those around him. He wants, fervently, only to be left alone. Practically any sacrifice is not too high a price to pay for that.

    This could be read, if one’s not disinclined, as an allegory of our present situation. If in order to keep our comfortable lives intact we must “shelter in place”, wear masks in public, and refrain from engaging in work that would bring us into frequent contact with others, we’ll do that. If the Church tells us to stop going to church and, instead, to watch televised church services, no problem. So far, fine. Others may suffer, but we’ll be all right, especially when the government sends us a little money to compensate us for our momentary discomfort. Those suffering others, many of whom live from paycheck to paycheck, will certainly suffer, perhaps greatly, but someone else will probably take care of them. Ah, the simple pleasures of peace and quiet.

  22. galerimo says:

    Part of the experience of sharing in Eucharist with others at this time of pandemic is the utter joy that it brings.

    At this resurrection time we think a lot about the empty tomb and the wonderful encounters with the Risen Jesus that some of his followers experienced. And these two facts are key to our coming to understand something of the great event that Jesus’ resurrection is.

    But one consistent reality in the second testament we read about is the “joy” experienced by Jesus followers when their eyes were opened and they saw him in his current state.

    Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness we can create for ourselves. Joy cannot be manufactured in the same way. It is completely a given, and mostly an unexpected given.

    It is indeed a fruit of the Holy Spirit. And one way of understanding it is, when we see things the way God sees them. Like the beauty of a view in nature, a child being born or at play, the sight of one we love…. or so many other moments that seem to transport us out of ourselves, with….joy.

    The fact is that celebrating mass in the way we do at present has been a real occasion of joy – no way do I feel like I should be doing things any differently or am any the less nourished.

    Maybe I wont always feel like that – that is fine – but I want to acknowledge the joy that mass, through the media is, for me, at present.

    And it is all the more so when I think how people experienced joy at sight of the Risen Lord.

  23. ignatius says:

    //Jesus certainly did not give us the sacraments in the form that we practice in the Catholic church, this has been entirely our own doing over centuries//

    As you know the form was laid down by AD 50 since the Apostle Paul writes of it in 1Corinthians 10:
    14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?
    However we look at it and however we emphasise cultural shift it is impossible to get to the view that we made it up all by ourselves, we did not.

    • milliganp says:

      Thank you,Ignatius. I perform funerals for ‘disconnected’ Christians in 3 rites, according to their need. I refrain, out of common courtesy, from ever asking born-again Christians for a bible reference for the alternative to baptism with water in the form of Matthew 28:19 by “accepting Jesus as you personal Lord and Saviour”.

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