Now That the Sun Has Returned: Reflection Series on The Lord’s Day for A Church (Still) Recovering From the Pandemic – Part 1: The Pandemic, Sunday, and the Robbery of Meaning
Happy Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady and Mother!
This time last year a lot of things were still locked down including churches, and if anything was open, there were extensive restrictions. Plus, the Sunday obligation to attend Mass was not in effect many parts of the Church. For a lot of us we are definitely back to a situation that looks a lot like normal if still not totally normal. More than a year later we have been enjoying some “breathing room,” so to speak, in our lives from the societal shutdown caused by a respiratory virus.
Even though we have in large part returned to Sunday I want to offer a three-part reflection series on the importance and value of Sunday as the Lord’s Day and Sunday worship as the Church continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic because in a significant sense what we typically know as Sunday was taken away from us by the virus then chewed up and spat out back to us in a form that not we did not recognize. “Now that the Sun(day) has returned” we should meditate on its importance and how to always keep the Lord’s Day holy no matter what happens.
This series is being featured on both BLACKCATHOLIC and Laudare.
It certainly goes without saying that 2020 was a year of utter disillusionment, and no doubt the biggest agent of that disillusionment for people was the yearlong pandemic (that’s still going on, and with a whole disease variant going around no less) and how it shut down everything in material lives.
And the modern world is very much a world of the material, a world of the practical, a world in which people are often defined by what they do and take meaning from their work. The practical realities of life certainty have the ability to give people at least an earthly sense of meaning. Additionally, human beings are social creatures who also derive meaning from being and living together in various forms of cooperation and communion. When we are not at the local parish but in our various places of work out there in the world we derive the sort of personal meaning that can be had with our engagement in the world while still not being “of it”, as Scripture says. Moreover, one of the means by which we try not to be “of the world” is our very conviction that even as we work from sun up to sun down six days a week and gain a sense of meaning from that, nevertheless, there is still one day left in the week, a day of rest from work, from which we receive a much deeper meaning than the kind of meaning we get from worldly work. This day provides a greater and objective purpose to both what we do and who we are. And this greater purpose supports us throughout all the weeks we will ever have gifted to us.
For Christians, that day is Sunday, the Lord’s Day, and the so-called lack of work that characterizes Sunday is really the work we do building up not skyscrapers or invoices but the Kingdom of God by our sacred work that is the liturgy.
And the Virus-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named seemingly (and I only say seemingly) took even this away from us.
This robbery of both our practical world along with our spiritual world above all was really a robbery of meaning. Thus, we were disillusioned. With our workplaces shut down, our bodies kept idle, and churches empty we might have felt that we no longer held a firm grasp on who we were and what were supposed to do – at least not as firm of a grasp as we might be used to having.
Lockdowns forced us off our feet and left us idle as the rest we enjoy on Sunday bled into the rest of the week because people could no longer go to work. However, we know that the “rest” we do merely away from labor and the “rest” we do on Sunday are two different kinds of rests. One gives us fleeting respite; the other gives us lasting deeper meaning. The work-a-day world of Monday through Saturday gives us an earthly sense of purpose for getting up in the morning, but we need far more than just this worldly sense because “man does not live by bread alone.” We all know that we need not just a reason to be awake but also a reason to be, period. And that’s why on Sunday we get up and come to church to look up, so that one day we can go up and meet the Lord up above. We give the Lord His day so that He can give us what every human being has ever longed for unceasingly each and every moment of our lives:
– our identity (who we are)
– belonging (whose we are)
– meaning (why we are)
– happiness, peace, and love (what we live for),
– purpose (how we live what we live for),
– our ultimate destiny (where we are going).
All of this is everything that the pandemic undermined in us to one extent or another. All these aspects in their fullness can only be found on the Lord’s Day and in the Lord of that day who is not only risen but is the Resurrection. This is the meaning of Sunday as the Lord’s day and why to keep it holy because by its observance everything that man is, desires, and hopes to be can be known and lived.
After one year removed from the worst rages of the pandemic just about all of us have returned to most things. We have returned to Monday through Saturday for our earthly work, and we have also returned to Sunday for our heavenly worship. But with a year out now have we been back in our pews with a true sense of the Lord’s Day after everything that has happened?
Returning with this sense means returning to having the true knowledge of what we are all searching for in life so we can celebrate this knowledge through liturgical worship, knowledge only found and lived in the risen Christ, on the day of the rising Son. Come back next Sunday for Part 2 of this reflection series.