For most of my life I followed an academic schedule. The year began at Labor Day and ended mid-June. I had an ingrained sense of time from that routine. After I retired and began attending the Catholic church pictured above I learned to move to a different schedule. There the year begins in Advent, the time leading up to Christmas, usually late November and runs until the next November. This new calendar has now been imprinted in me and I am comforted by the predictability.
Which brings me to the sense of being completely out of sync during this year. We went into isolation in mid March and missed the great feasts of Easter and Pentecost. We are nearly through Advent and are still unable to gather for worship. After Christmas season we will enter what the Church calls Ordinary Time, but there will still be nothing ordinary about it for us.
Catholic worship is very physical. While we joke about standing, sitting, kneeling, repeat, our bodies are quite accustomed to the practice. And the pinnacle of worship is a walk to the front of the church to receive Communion, a physical wafer in our physical hand. And much physical action happens before and after the service as we greet one another, often with a hug. We are an embodied religion and we experience much of our faith through our body.
While I watch Mass streamed on television, it becomes a listening experience rather than a fully embodied one. I am not surrounded by music: I can’t smell the incense or oil used at special times; I can’t take the bread and wine into my body. While seeing and hearing the Friars is much better than no contact, much is missing. That makes my worship feel as out of sync as the calendar.
Here’s hoping that enough Americans get vaccinated that it is safe to return to church or any other activities that people need to feel grounded once again. It turns out that routine is underrated. I miss it terribly.