Our readings give an answer to an important question that all of us have been facing these days. For three months, this is the first time that we can celebrate the Eucharist together in our beloved church. The question is: ‘What is the church and wher is it to be found?’
There have been important implications on how people worship God. Let us think and pray about it together. Many of us have discovered the benefits of a streamed service. For many who spend most of their time online, it was a great discovery that ‘God is online.’ For others, again, it is a prothesis, like a clutch: it does not give the full joy and the personal interaction which we enjoy, and which is part of our Sunday prayer life. There are refreshing observations. Like, ‘God is found, not just in the physical expression of church, mosque, temple, synagogue, but in the very experience of searching for God online. God inhabits the digital.’ Or, today ‘digital ecclesial communities emerge.’ In author of the book, The Distanced Church says: The Second Vatican Council already spoke of the ‘base ecclesial communities’. Now, owing to the global epidemic, therae are new ways to explore worship in the local community. It seems that our understanding (for many) of what the church is and how God is present in it and to us is changing fast.
Now, our community, just like many other local churches, is at crossroads. We need creativity, but we also need faithfulness to the core values of faith. We can, and need to be creative, and listen to some of the new ideas. As it were, we are called to exercise ‘a Eucharistic imagination’. Personally, I loved idea that ‘everyone who is taking part in, for instance, a Zoom act of eucharistic worship should bring their own bread and wine to the feast. By doing this we would recognise that through the powerful medium of the internet the virtual community is actually more than just a virtual community.’
I think, this is the key. We have to prove that we are not a virtual community. God is not a virtual reality. Love and religion need to be kept real. The sense of the church building, the effort of a weekly pilgrimage, or even the burning desire to return to the church from our exile must be kept alive. We should never forget that we are not a virtual community. The idea of ‘Digital Ecclasial Communities’, even if we face the digital challenge, is not the answer. It cannot be. There are tempting romantic ideas in theology. Some say that for God ‘the digital space is the same space’ as the phsyical space, surely, the Holy Spirit has this ability to extend the Incarnation into the digital world. True and not true. True that there is a missional opportunity here. ‘Casual observers of our church activities on Facebook have begun to attend livestreamed services.. People are dipping their toes into worship because of our ready availability in their poecket or on the laptop in front of them.’
So, you can see, there is so much to think about. However, for me, the answer lies in our readings, and the very fact that we are here. The first is the dominant theme of joy over our faith. ‘Fill your faithful with joy.’ ‘Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion! [daughters of the lock down]. See now how you king comes to you; he is victorious, he is triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey.’ For me, the humbling answer is our gentle and humble return to church on this Sunday. This is the experience of the faithful remnant. Yours is an important witness, that the desire to meet our Lord physically can be and must be kept alive! Your pilgrimage to here is an important form of prayer, an important petition to God: with his help, Covid 19 can be overcome!
Our second reading calls us to act out that ‘Your interests are not in the unspiritual, bu tin the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has his home in you.’ Our coming to God’s tangible altar, is a confession of this. We need to come to the Lord. The Gospel itself answers our question: where is the church? ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.’ We should stay -despite the odds -with ‘The Temple’. With the celebration of the Eucharist. Of course, the question is, and this is the task of our Eucharistic imagination, how to make ‘the digital worship real’, how to keep it connected to what we have been celebrating phsysically here and now. (quotes froom John Schofiled, ‘Communion and Community in a Digital Age.’ https://www.crconline.org.uk/resources/articles/communion-and-community-digital-age
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..