“In many countries, the practice of Christian worship is disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The faithful cannot meet in the churches, they cannot participate sacramentally in the Eucharistic sacrifice. This situation is a source of great suffering. It is also an opportunity that God gives us to better understand the necessity and the value of liturgical worship. As Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, but above all in deep communion in the humble service of God and His Church, I [Robert, Cardinal Sarah] wish to offer this meditation to my brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood and to the people of God, to try and learn some lessons from this situation.
“It has sometimes been said that, because of the epidemic and the confinement ordered by the civil authorities, public worship was suspended. This is not correct. Public worship is the worship rendered to God by the whole Mystical Body, Head and members, as the Second Vatican Council recalls: “Indeed, for the accomplishment of this great work by which God is perfectly glorified and men sanctified, Christ always associates with the Church, his beloved Bride, who invokes her as his Lord and who passes through him to render his worship to the Eternal Father.” The liturgy is therefore rightly regarded as the exercise of the priestly function of Jesus Christ, an exercise in which the sanctification of man is signified by sensitive signs, is carried out in a manner specific to each person . . . Thus, each time a priest celebrates the mass or the liturgy of the hours, even if he is alone, he offers public and official worship of the Church in union with its Head, Christ and on behalf of the whole Body.
“Of course, to find its full and manifest expression, it is fortunate that this worship can be celebrated with the participation of a community of the faithful of the people of God. But it may happen that this is not possible. The physical absence of the community does not prevent the realization of public worship even if it cuts off part of its realization . . . Thus, it would be wrong to pretend that a priest should abstain from the celebration of Mass in the absence of the faithful. On the contrary, in the present circumstances where the people of God are prevented from uniting sacramentally with this worship, the priest is more bound to the daily celebration. Indeed, in the liturgy, the priest acts in persona Ecclesiae, in the name of the whole Church and in persona Christi, in the name of Christ, Head of the Body to worship the Father; he is the ambassador, the delegate of all those who cannot be there.
“It is therefore understandable that no secular authority can suspend the public worship of the Church. This worship is a spiritual reality over which temporal authority has no control. This worship continues wherever a mass is celebrated, even without the assistance of the people gathered. It is up to this civil authority, on the other hand, to ban gatherings that would be dangerous for the common good in view of the health situation. It is also the responsibility of the bishops to collaborate with these civil authorities in the most perfect frankness. Continue reading “The reality of our times”