by Matt Hadro
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 11, 2020 / 02:00 pm MT (CNA).- After Virginia’s governor appeared to counsel that church attendance is immaterial to the act of worship, one theologian says that Catholics see worship otherwise.
On Thursday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) requested spiritual leaders to think about holding liturgies open air or just about in the course of the Christmas season, as he introduced new restrictions on public gatherings to regulate the unfold of the coronavirus.
“The vacations are usually occasions of pleasure and group. We collect collectively, we rejoice our religion, and we rejoice with household,” Northam stated. “However this 12 months, we’d like to consider what is really an important factor. Is it the worship, or the constructing?”
“To me, God is wherever you might be. You don’t have to take a seat within the church pew for God to listen to your prayers,” stated the governor.
Northam, who has no formal theological training or coaching, added that “worship on-line continues to be worship.”
“So I strongly name on our religion leaders to paved the way and set an instance for his or her members. Worship with a masks on continues to be worship. Worship outdoors or worship on-line continues to be worship,” he stated.
Dr. Timothy O’Malley, director of training on the McGrath Institute for Church Life and educational director of the Notre Dame Middle for Liturgy, advised CNA on Friday that for Catholics to remain dwelling out of warning in the course of the pandemic may be laudable or mandatory, however it’s incorrect to say private prayer, and even watching Mass on-line, can like-for-like change attending a Mass in-person.
“You may’t simply watch Mass and get the identical factor out of attending the Mass,” he stated. “The Eucharist alone makes that unattainable, to obtain the Physique and Blood of Christ on Christmas is a present. It requires presence.”
“In-person worship issues,” O’Malley stated, and if Catholics are unable to attend Mass, they need to take into account the likelihood to “worship collectively in smaller communities,” together with as particular person households within the dwelling.
“For Catholics, matter issues,” he defined. “And meaning the Church constructing is not only a container for human exercise. It’s a sacramental signal of the thriller being celebrated, the union of heaven and earth, the embodied reminiscence of what Christ has achieved on the cross.”
However, O’Malley stated relating to Northam’s options for outside liturgies, Catholic clergymen have traditionally provided Mass open air and, given the unfold of the virus indoors, it may be a sensible transfer for Christmas Mass.
“A lot of the historical past of the liturgy has grown out of, no less than initially, outside processions,” stated O’Malley. “There’s nothing intrinsically un-Catholic about outside Eucharistic liturgies. And within the time of a world pandemic, it could be smart to think about such alternatives.”
Church buildings weren’t topic to the Northam’s new gathering limits in Virginia, and the governor indicated that the exemption was because of the latest Supreme Court docket ruling in Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo. In that ruling, a 5-4 Supreme Court docket majority halted the state’s restrictions that restricted some indoor spiritual companies to as few as 10 folks.
“We’re following swimsuit with that,” Northam stated on Thursday, noting that he would solely encourage religion leaders and wouldn’t impose a authorized mandate on them. He additionally imposed an indoor masks mandate on Virginians, however stated the state wouldn’t be actively implementing the order at church buildings.
In March, Northam’s public well being restrictions made it a prison offense to be at a non-essential gathering of greater than 10 folks—together with inside a church. Native police stopped a Palm Sunday service at a Chincoteague Christian church that was attended by 16 folks.
Whereas each the Arlington and Richmond dioceses curbed Sunday Plenty within the spring because of the unfold of the virus, church buildings have been open once more for Mass with the Sunday obligation nonetheless lifted in the course of the pandemic.
O’Malley prompt that, for Catholics who’re homebound throughout Christmas, they may maybe pray the Liturgy of the Hours collectively.
“We will bend the knee earlier than Christ within the creche. Worship on this sense, once more, is not only pondering pious ideas. It’s utilizing the fabric dimensions of Catholicism to enter into deeper communion with Christ,” he stated.
In his letter Allow us to return to the Eucharist with pleasure launched in September, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Self-discipline of the Sacraments stated Catholics should return to Mass “as quickly as circumstances allow.”
Cardinal Robert Sarah stated in his letter of televised or live-streamed companies that “no broadcast is comparable to private communication or can change it. Quite the opposite, these broadcasts alone danger distancing us from a private and intimate encounter with the incarnate God who gave himself to us not in a digital manner.”