“It’s hard to know what day of the week it is”.
Whenever the normal pattern and structure of our week is changed, for whatever reason, we can be surprised at finding it more difficult to know exactly what day of the week it actually is. When the normal rhythm of weekday, work, school, early rise – weekend leisure, Church , football, free time, disappears, then it is not automatic to retain an immediate and instinctive awareness of where we are.
If we extend this way of things over weeks and months as we just have, then it becomes even more difficult to keep things in view. As we can all bear witness, one day is so like another. Even things like traffic noise are much the same from one day to another. The birds and animals must be wondering what we are up to!
For us, alongside the rhythm of daily life there is also the flowing of what we can describe as the Church’s “liturgical time”, the liturgical year. If we were asked to sit down and draw the circle of the Church’s year of worship then we could, I am sure, quickly put in writing the cycle of Lent – Easter – Ordinary Time – Advent – Christmas – Winter ordinary time, back to Lent. For the weekly dynamic, there is always the central and foundational place of Sunday, the Day of the Resurrection.
For us, of course, this is certainly never a mere paper exercise. Rather, it is how we are called to life and how we are gifted that life by our God. At the heart of this experience is the power of the death and resurrection, given to us initially in Baptism and then, constantly, a call to continue to share in this life through the different elements of our worship year.
We come to understand what it means for us by constantly involving and engaging ourselves in the celebration of these feasts and seasons. Little children who are at Church with their parents and brothers and sisters are opened gradually to awareness of what this is for them. In our parish, our altar servers, in their first weeks of serving, frequently ask, “what colour is it, Father” as they arrange their cords and their cinctures on their albs.. In this way they are also opened to their own understanding of the church’s year.
Since this pattern and rhythm is severely missing for us during this sad and trying time, in which our Churches remain closed, we need to take time to remind ourselves of where we are and of what aspect of the Paschal Mystery is our focus just now.
This Sunday is the 7th of Easter, our great fifty day feast; it represents the Church between Ascension and Pentecost. The first reading for today’s Mass brings before us a particularly beautiful and powerful image of the infant Church united in prayer. Within it, I just love the way in which Mary the mother of Jesus and mother of our Church is portrayed. She is not singled out but simply mentioned as being there, as being part of this gathering of disciples united in continuous prayer. In this instance the names of the apostles are actually spelled out before Mary and the women and Jesus’ brothers.
Look to any artistic arrangement of this event and you will find that Mary has been moved, not surprisingly, to the middle of the gathering, in spiritual reverence of the one who is the Mother of God. Allow yourself to be at home in this upper room gathering and both depictions of Mary provide us with much opportunity for reflection. It speaks to us of the community after the Ascension, preparing in prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Mary who was already totally obedient to the Spirit and fully open to the call of the Spirit, prepares with the other disciples for the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Church.
It’s a scene that must also be contemporary; which must encompass our involvement, our presence, our prayer today. As we move from Ascension to Pentecost, we must pray that the Spirit of the Lord will come down upon each one of us and upon the Church in this time of pandemic. The image of Mary joined in her prayer with the rest of those first disciples is to be for us also the image of Mary the mother of the Church, with us now, interceding for us and bringing us before her Son.
The Church can be renewed in every event and episode of her existence. These days represent for all humanity a time of real difficulty, suffering and uncertainty. They also bring before us in the community of faith an opportunity to grow in trust, faith and courage, a time witness to the Spirit through deeds of love, a time to ask the Mother of the saviour to be close to us and united to us in prayer with and for us and all humanity. A time to be opened to the transforming power of the death and resurrection, the Paschal Mystery, of Christ Jesus.
25th May 2020
7th Sunday of Easter