Into the Desert: A Thought About Lent 2020

Disclaimer: The following is my personal decision and one I am confident in making. I am not telling a single other soul this is what they “should” do if they face a similar decision.

Several Lenten seasons ago, our Catholic women’s group in Hawaii was challenged by our chaplain to only receive Christ on the tongue, rather than in the hand, for the duration of Lent. In the five or so years since, I have never returned to receiving in the hand, having noticed an increase in personal reverence for the Eucharist when I receive on the tongue.

Last Thursday, as I received the Precious Host during Communion at daily Mass, I was struck deep within my heart with a phrase, “Savor Me.” As I let the Precious Host melt in my mouth, I was confused and perplexed; on the other hand, I was grossed out by the concept of “savoring” Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in my mouth.

Nonetheless, since I have made a concerted effort to stop second-guessing random prompts on my heart, I did as instructed, and I savored that Precious Body. I let the Precious Host fully dissolve, paying attention in, perhaps the most focused way I have ever paid after receiving the Eucharist.

While I don’t typically ask “why” with these spiritual prompts, the why was answered after daily Mass, when our staff was told that, due to the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our area, receiving Christ on the tongue, and receiving the Precious Blood during Communion would be suspended for an undetermined length of time. There is also no more Sign of Peace, no more handshaking or high-fiving of the little kids with our priest, and our Holy Water fonts are dry. My priest knows Canon Law, and I have no doubt he will uphold Canon Law regarding reception on the tongue if he has a communicant who insists on “no hand,” but I support my priest in his decision.

Therefore, I have personally opted to receive Spiritual Communion until I can receive on the tongue again. One of the Precepts of the Catholic Church is to receive the Eucharist at a minimum of one time per year, during the Easter Season. So, sometime during Easter, I will receive Christ in the Eucharist while in a state of grace, and then, if conditions still warrant, will go back to receiving Spiritual Communion until this particular decision is lifted.

My first Spiritual Communion took place this past Sunday. As I watched the priest at Mass on Sunday return the Precious Host to the Eucharistic Minister, who in turn returned Christ to the Tabernacle, I was hit with the gravity of the instruction on my heart on Thursday.

Sunday afternoon, Catholics around the world watched as the Vatican issued an announcement suspending public Masses until 3 April. Apparently, it’s something that hasn’t happened in the span of five hundred years or more. And, I am choosing to not wade into Church politics regarding the announcement.

Rather, I have watched the reaction on social media intensely. My heart hurts for those who are longing for Christ at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Eucharist. Yet, this morning, another thought came to heart.

Throughout the world, public Masses are being suspended, and bishops are declaring it wise that communicants should no longer receive the Precious Blood due to fear of spreading COVID-19 via the chalice, and that communicants only receive Christ in the hand, rather than on the tongue.

Our Church has truly entered the desert with Christ, but while some people are angry, others like myself are saddened. However, it is important to not allow the entering of the spiritual desert to lead us to near occasions of sin.

And, the prompting of the Spirit to “Savor Me,” has come to shine radiantly. As I shared with a friend yesterday, while “my roof may be worthy, I know my hands certainly are not,” worthy to receive Him in the hand by the time I make it to Communion time.

When Christ entered the desert, He faced temptation. And, when we enter into Lent, we ourselves face temptations.

We have free will to give in to those temptations, and to go back to whatever it is we gave up for the 40 days. We have free will to choose whether or not to enter deeper into prayer and relationship with God. And, we have free will to overlook our neighbor, choosing to add more to our own excess, rather than giving to another in need.

And, our Church has entered into Lent as a worldwide body of Christ this year.

While we have free will to give in to temptations, so, too, do we have free will to choose to follow Christ’s example in the desert, as it pertains to the most recent news and issued statements. We have the free will to not give into the temptation to harass or harangue others for their conscious decisions based on what is being done to combat COVID-19. More importantly, we have the free will  to choose whether or not to despair.

Instead, we can act according to our consciences, as the Church stays her course in this season of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.

Consider the ways in which the Church is inviting us to Pray, Fast, and Give:

  • Pray for the Church and those impacted by COVID-19. Pray for those who have already lost their lives to this virus, and for the families and friends undergoing quarantine and grief. Pray about whether or not you have worthily received Christ every single communion. Ask Christ for courage to meet with Him in the confessional if it has been a while;
  • Fast from receiving Christ as we typically would – either under the species of wine, or from both the Body and Blood altogether. Fast from judging others who choose to receive, or not receive, in ways that are similar to your own personal decision;
  • Give encouragement, wisdom, and above all, love to others who may be experiencing difficulty in this Lenten season. Offer up normal day-to-day struggles, disturbances, and grievances for those impacted by COVID-19.

Perhaps this is the perfect time for Catholics throughout the world to come together and truly unite in their belief in the Profession of Faith. Perhaps this is the most opportune time for Catholics to remember that the Eucharist is a most precious gift given to us by God Himself. Perhaps this is the most amazing moment for each of us to remember we are united, not just in suffering with Christ, but also with each other, day in and day out.

So, regardless of where you sit on the “where/when/how to receive the Eucharist or not,” debate, or regardless of whether or not you think public Mass should be cancelled at the Vatican, I invite you to join me in this desert.

Spend time with Christ, and offer up your difficulties this Lent in reparation for the sins we have committed, and continue to commit on a daily basis.

And, if you are unable to receive the Eucharist for any reason, I invite you to join me in receiving Spiritual Communion, with this Act of Spiritual Communion which can be prayed:

My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.

Amen.

Continue to fulfill your Sunday Mass obligations, regardless of whether or not you receive Christ in physical species or Spiritual Communion. And, continue to stay close to Christ, dear reader. He will sustain each and every single one of us.

 

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