April 4, 2020 Column Father De Celles

HOLY WEEK. Today we enter the holiest week of the year, commemorating the holiest week of all time, when the God of heaven and earth, creator of all the universe, God the Son, eternally begotten of God the Father, condescended to suffer and die in our flesh for the sins of all mankind. The week Jesus offered Himself as a living sacrifice out of love for His Father and for us.

            A week that changed the world forever, echoing throughout history until the end of time. And so today we remember it not just as something that happened 2000 years ago, but as something that is alive today. And we use the gifts of intellect, reason, sensation, emotion and faith to take us back, to be and walk with Jesus, and with Mary, John, Peter, Magdalene, Pilate and Caiaphas…and Judas. To see what they saw, hear what they heard, and feel what they felt.

This year, sadly, we will not be able to use the full resources the Church normally provides us in this regard during Holy Week. Most especially, with the limitations the government and Church have understandably placed on us, we will not be able to gather together for the beautiful and moving liturgies of the Triduum.

But we can still join in those liturgies remotely through television and the internet (see below). And we can still take advantage of the other resources at our disposal: families can sing hymns or watch religious movies together (watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ; you can read and listen to Scripture; pray the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Stations of the Cross. And we can pray anywhere, but especially you can visit to pray in the church privately.

Again, I strongly encourage you to see the limitations on our freedom and regular activities as a penance Jesus has given us—completely in the spirit of Lent, and of the Cross. Remember, Jesus Himself prays on the Cross, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me.” But remember, as He well understood, those are the first words of Psalm 22, which later says, “You who fear the Lord, praise Him! ….For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted…    but has heard, when He cried to Him.” Jesus knew He was never abandoned.

Let all your fears, anxiety and pain, become a sharing in the suffering of Jesus on the Cross, as He has entered into our suffering by His suffering on the Cross.

STAY AT HOME ORDER. As you probably know, the Governor of Virginia has issued an Executive Order (55), that requires us all to “temporary stay at home.”

My dear sons and daughters, in my opinion, this is a just mandate from the legitimate authority for a legitimate and just reason, so that even if we have a different opinion we are morally bound to obey it. Doing otherwise, in a substantial way and without a grave reason, would be a SIN and directly opposed to the whole meaning of Holy Week and the Cross. So, in humility, pick up this cross, accept it as part of God’s will, and follow Jesus.

            However, the order is not overly draconian. The exact wording that applies to parishes is:

“All individuals in Virginia shall remain at their place of residence, except as provided below by this Order and Executive Order 53. To the extent individuals use shared or outdoor spaces, whether on land or on water, they must at all times maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person, with the exception of family or household members or caretakers. Individuals may leave their residences for the purpose of:….. f. Traveling to and from one’s residence, place of worship, or work…

“All public and private in-person gatherings of more than ten individuals are prohibited. This includes parties, celebrations, religious, or other social events, whether they occur indoor or outdoor.”

So you can still come to church whenever you want, as long as we all keep the 10 person rule. We have taken every precaution to help you feel safe in the church.

You can also come and walk around the grounds, if you like. Remember the outdoor Stations of the Cross that run around the back of “Lake Raymond” (the storm water pond). But please: cars be careful of pedestrians in the parking lot, and vice versa. Also, please do not walk behind the rectory: it is the priests’ private home; be especially careful of walking on the driveway: when we back out of the garage our visibility is limited.

THE EASTER TRIDUUM. As I mentioned last week, because of the Coronavirus, Bishop Burbidge, in obedience to a special directive from the Vatican, has announced that pastors may either cancel or only privately celebrate the liturgies and devotions of the Triduum.

I have decided to privately celebrate, and LIVESTREAM the following Liturgies as originally scheduled: The Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7pm on Holy Thursday; The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord (veneration of the Cross) at 3pm on Good Friday; and the Easter Vigil (without the Lucenarium/Easter Fire and procession) at 8:30pm.

The only Easter Sunday Mass will be offered in private, and livestreamed, at 11am.

            Because there are only 2 priests in the parish, the bishop has given me permission to have the assistance of up to 8 lay liturgical ministers, i.e., adult lectors and college aged altar servers.

            Note, on Holy Thursday: keeping the 10-person limit, all are invited to keep “Night Watch” with the Lord from after the Mass to Midnight in the church. Contrary to the usual practice, the Blessed Sacrament will not be removed from the church’s tabernacle until Midnight. Because of the 10-person rule we are asking people to sign up for times on the parish website.

LIVESTREAMED DAILY MASS. If you haven’t heard, I will be livestreaming my private Mass today, Sunday, at 11am, and Monday through Wednesday, April 8, at 8:30am. You can also watch the video after the livestreaming.

DAILY EXPOSITION AND ADORATION. We will continue to with Daily Exposition and Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the church, from 9am to 9pm, through this Wednesday. Please sign up for a time on our website (https://straymonds.org/adoration/). All are welcome, even without signing up, but the 10 person limit still applies—please self-enforce.

CONFESSIONS. Don’t forget we have Confessions all week (except Holy Thursday). Confessions are being heard in the Flower Room and, if necessary, in the “Family (“Cry”) Room,” where we can practice social distancing. See the schedule below for times.

IN NEED OF HELP? If you are someone you know is in need of assistance during this time, do not hesitate to contact the office or me directly. If we can help, spiritually, financially, whatever, we will. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and I am your father in Christ, so do not hesitate. And know you are all in my prayers.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles