In my previous post I had mentioned how our recent reading of the Book of Leviticus – specifically the final curses – seemed to be quite apposite in our current situation. I ended that post by saying that there was one curse in particular that jumped out at me, especially as it seems to bear upon the present ecclesiastical situation. This curse, however, could be a blessing in disguise. That is the topic of today’s post.
[A]nd I will make your sanctuaries desolate, and will receive no more your sweet odours.
All over the world churches are closed to the lay faithful. The administration of the sacraments has been reduced to a bare minimum in many places, while in others it has ceased altogether.
How did we get here? While I previously stated that part of the problem is that nations have turned away from God, I believe that the greater part of the burden rests upon the shoulders of us Christians. I recall a friend back home making a similar comment after parliament approved the decriminalization of euthanasia. One of his acquaintances said that was impossible as practising Catholics are no longer the majority of the population. Yet while that may be true on a natural, statistical level, on the supernatural numbers have very little to do with it. As a Russian saint is supposed to have once said: acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands around you shall be converted.
Even now in this time of testing, I hear stories of people touting the “my-church-is-better-than-yours” line, trying to show the moral superiority of “their side” on either holding out the longest celebrating Mass publicly or stopping it the earliest as a precaution. As I have said many times previously, for the most part we do not live as a believing people. We do not act as a priestly nation. All to often we publicly deny the Lord (be it in word, deed, or omission). Are we surprised then that He should deny us?
While the sweet odour to the Lord continues – not only in the sacrosanct sacrifice of the Mass, but also in the praying of the Divine Office – the laity have been cut off from it. One has to wonder: has our incense become detestable? Have our offerings become worthless? Have our assemblies become iniquitous?
Yet, for all the gloom, hand-wringing, and self-righteous indignation going around, there is hope. It is quite curious that this should happen during Lent. We tend to think of Lent nowadays as a time of (mostly individual) preparation for Pascha. Historically it was a time for catechumens to be reborn through the Church, but also a time for the Church to prepare to receive the neophyte.
We find ourselves in a situation analogous to the catechumens of old: wanting to take part in the sacramental life, yet unable; looking forward to Holy Pascha, desirous to gaze upon the face of the risen Lord. Like the catechumen of old, many of us await that moment when we can once again partake of the wedding feast of the Lamb; we await to be nourished once more with the Living Bread come down from Heaven.
Perhaps this absence is the true grace of this particular Lent. It is time for us to remember the magnalia dei – the mighty works of the Lord -, not only in Salvation History, but also in our own lives, that we may not be like the Old Israel who murmured in the desert.
He hath made a remembrance of his wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord: * he hath given food to them that fear him.
He will be mindful for ever of his covenant: * he will shew forth to his people the power of his works.
It is time for us to learn to look for His indwelling within our soul as well. It is time to look for that place where He comes to make His abode within.
I sleep, and my heart watcheth; the voice of my beloved knocking: Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled.
Such as I love, I rebuke and chastise. Be zealous therefore, and do penance. Behold, I stand at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Let this Lent, however long it may last, be our tithe of the year. May its end see the renewal in us a zealous charity, a steadfast hope, and an illumined faith. I will end with the following words of the Lord, taken from the prophet Hosea. They are words of hope, to remind us that “His mercy endureth forever.”
Therefore, behold I will allure her, and will lead her into the wilderness: and I will speak to her heart. […] [A]nd she shall sing there according to the days of her youth, and according to the days of her coming up out of the land of Egypt.