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?