A church bulletin board, quoted by Bishop Mariann, has a rueful message: “I didn’t plan on giving up this much for Lent.”
None of us did. This year, we won’t have the experience of being in church for the lows and highs of the most sacred time in our liturgy. We won’t have the experience of gathering together to sorrow, to reflect and to rejoice.
We will have at-home worship kits. We can send intentions for prayer to Father Dominique, to offer at Wednesday Mass. And many of us can take advantage of on-line services. It may not feel like church. But it is. The church is people – you and me and all of us.
The Greek word that church derives from is ecclesia. There are similar terms in Hebrew. Over the years, it’s been laden with all sorts of meanings. In its simplest form, though, it means gathering. In both the Old and New Testaments, it means gathering. For the Israelites, it signified covenant. In the New Testament, it came to mean gatherings of the people. (An interesting article on ecclesia can be found in Christian Classical Ethereal Library by J.A.H. Fenton, University of Cambridge, 1897. [www.ccel.org])
When we gather with at-home worship kits, when we listen to on-line services, we are gathering as a people. When we pray at home, we are praying along with many others who are doing the same thing during this Lenten season. When we care for each other, via mail, email and phone calls, we are church.
We can experience the lows and the highs of this most sacred time. And when, finally, we can congregate together in our worship space, we can say, “Alleluia!” And we will know that Jesus has risen.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington