The doors of a London church locked in late March 2020. CNS photo/Latin America News Agency via Reuters

Speaking Out: Make the circle unbroken again

By  Jacob Stocking, Youth Speak News
  • April 7, 2021

Just over a year into a global pandemic, churches in the Archdiocese of Toronto began holding Masses again just in time for Easter — albeit with 15-per-cent seating capacity. The past year will go down as a significant event in the history of the modern Church in Canada, and leads to questions about the nature of theological approaches to history itself.

St. Augustine (354-430 B.C.) argued history is linear in nature, which contrasts interestingly with both the cyclical symbolism in Catholicism — think of the Advent wreath and the circular shaped-host — and the cyclical perspective on history held by the pagans who came before him.

If we are to accept his perspective, then any break in the liturgical cycle renders it linear, because if a circle were to break it would have a visible beginning and end. This interruption forces us to reconsider the cyclical patterns that direct not only our religious routines but almost every aspect of our lives. 

We live in a world governed by routines built around institutions. Schools, churches and workplaces all provide literal and figurative structures that keep us grounded in reality. In a sense, this regulated interaction with the world and people God has created is how we express our love for Him. Routines and traditions are a manifestation of both our humanity and mortality.

We follow different traditions depending on the time of year, following the life of Jesus through the liturgical seasons. Each year culminates in His death and resurrection on Easter. As Scripture describes the death and rebirth of Jesus, historical records will describe the death of the pre-pandemic Mass and its subsequent reinvention for the pandemic context. Such changes may seem startling to us right now but have taken place several times in the past.

There is the introduction of the “New Mass” by the Second Vatican Council on Nov. 29, 1964, giving  us some of the features we are most familiar with today: the processional hymn, centrally placed altar and the “Amen” response to receiving communion. It also brought about a fundamental linguistic shift with the discontinued use of Latin.

These would remain the most profound shifts to liturgical proceedings for more than half a century until COVID-19 forced a re-thinking of Masses as churches everywhere were closed and services suspended. Under this new format, receiving communion — the cornerstone of the Mass — was for the most part impossible.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist’s temporary absence was a shocking interruption to a familiar routine. It showed us the value of tradition and routine. 

Having completed an entire liturgical cycle in a pandemic context, it is time to return to some sort of normalcy. How we interact with God through the Mass will undoubtedly never be the same, but we must take the resourcefulness and strength developed and use it to serve Him in ways better than ever before.

(Stocking, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Michael Power-St. Joseph High School in Etobicoke, Ont.)

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