AST SATURDAY evening we watched another press conference from the White House. At this point the Dow Jones Industrial Average had just recorded a nearly 2,000 point rise after a week of historic losses. The President talked about the “pent up energy” that would one day be released upon our economy once the crisis of the coronavirus had subsided.
The phrase struck me because I have been thinking about pent up energy and Eucharistic fasting in the wake of the suspension of public celebrations of the Mass across many of our dioceses, including my own Diocese of Dallas.
We take many things for granted until we lose them. Even after only one week, I know that so many are distraught that they cannot receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Musicians, especially, are profoundly missing being able to sing for the sacred Liturgy, especially during this rich season of Lent. We feel the dryness of the Lenten desert. It is real. We have been forced to fast from that which we love. Our longings for the Liturgy and the Eucharist are being pent up.
Eucharistic fasting is not new. It was not always the case that the faithful could receive the Eucharist each Sunday, let alone daily if desired. St. Augustine is said to have excommunicated himself to be in solidarity with the sinners who could not juridically receive communion.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, writing as Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, said that such a fasting, “could…sometimes be useful or even necessary, to renew and establish more deeply our relationship with the Body of Christ.” (Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith, p.86, Ignatius Press, 2005) In these days, when belief in the Real Presence is waning, could Eucharistic fasting be beneficial? 1
Cardinal Ratzinger went on to say, “Yet from time to time we need a cure from falling into mere habit and its dullness. Sometimes we need to be hungry…” (Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith, p.88)
Imagine the hunger that will need to be satisfied when full public Masses resume, the pent up desires that will be released. Imagine people, filled with emotion, joy, and thanksgiving, streaming to Mass to receive the Lord, conscious now of what it is that they’ve missed, what it is that is real.
I believe, too, that there is pent up energy for sacred music and for beauty. For the liturgy and the eschatological. For heaven. How parched will have been our spiritual lives, how absent of beauty. Like a thirst that must be quenched, sacred polyphony, chant, and excellent hymnody will be like drinking from cooling waters.
Musicians need to be ready. We don’t know when this will happen, if we’ll receive plenty of lead time or only a few days notice. My suggestion to you all is to be ready for any contingency. Plan what would happen if you returned on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, or even later. Are you ready? If needed, reimagine musical plans so that your choirs can sing things they know very well. The faithful will want to hear you at your best, singing as beautifully as possible. They will have missed you, even if they don’t yet know it. Keep in contact with your choir through email, text, or phone. Make sure they are healthy, and remind them how much they will be needed when the time comes.
Let us pray for the Church, for the Pope, for the sick, for the world.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 I was struck when looking at the various statements from Americas bishops regarding the suspension of public celebrations of the Mass how few mentioned the Eucharist. From what I could find, Cardinal Cupich of Chicago was most explicit when he said, “This was not a decision I make lightly. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our life as Catholics.”