Seeing or Believing?
In recent days, a good deal of anguish has been expressed concerning the closure of churches and the non-celebration of the sacraments in a manner which is accessible to the faithful. It has been rightly pointed out that these are, according to our faith, essential services; providing both sustenance and consolation. Others have resorted to the live streaming of "private Masses" (i.e. without the physical attendance of the faithful). This has in turn, generated anxiety on the part of those who consider such transmissions injurious to the dignity of the sacrament.
Each of these represents both an authentically expressed concern and a sincerely held view. In our present days, it is, of course, necessary for each one of us to formulate and seek to maintain our own forms of spiritual communion. For many, this is uncharted territory; restrictions upon freedom prompting a lack of access to distractions from which they might otherwise have drawn comfort. For others, it will be welcomed as an oasis for what might be colloquially termed a "factory reset". For a few, it might also be seen as a chance to reawaken long forgotten joys of quietude.
Physical proximity to and solidarity with others is, naturally, part of our vocation and human condition. The catechism reminds us that we are called to be members of the people of God (i.e. in community): [CCC1669 & 1939]. This cannot be denied. However it is equally important to keep in mind that our relationship with our Saviour depends upon a different form of union. This should come as no surprise, given that is a union founded in spirit and in truth; not rooted in the senses. As St Thomas Aquinas famously observed:
"Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived."
Rather, our own personal relationship with Christ requires us to create and enter into a form of solitude with him. This is a solitude which gives us the opportunity, or at least the prospect, of hearing His prompting; in turn bringing the necessary spiritual vision to recognise Him in ourselves, our present circumstances and our relationship with others.
In these days of involuntary privation of access to God's house, and more importantly the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, we may nonetheless fix our minds upon that place of spiritual connection and source of unity. In the words of the Psalmist:
"For the love of the House of the Lord, I will ask for your good…"
Perhaps in adopting this as a component of our personal prayer for those from whom we are physically disconnected (or for that matter those with with we are presently obliged to share sustained proximity!) we have some prospect that in the not-too-distant future we may in unison declare:
"I rejoiced when I heard them say, let us go to God's house…"
The cause of our rejoicing is not borne of physical proximity or unity, but a simple irrefutable truth. In the words of the Angelic Doctor:
"What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there's nothing true".
As St Robert Bellarmine tells us, this Truth in all its eloquence was pronounced from "the pulpit of the cross"; the place where the incarnate Saviour submitted himself in order that we might gain access to his Father's House. This is the real cause of both our rejoicing and spiritual communion. It transcends the physicality and restrictions of our own times and endures for all eternity. It is in and with this Truth that we must find our home.
Our lady seat of wisdom-pray for us