Today, I went to Mass for the first time since March 21st.
It seems both like a laughably long time, incomprehensible to have lived an entire liturgical season without the usual communal Eucharistic celebrations. But also so short! It has only been three months, I suppose. And in comparison to other sacrifices or time that transforms a life, three months does not seem dreadfully long.
Lack of mass for three whole months boggles the mind and defies the part of my brain that processes the world through patterns. But in terms of particularities, Easter 2020 was never going to be like Easter 2019 or Easter 2021, and so it was what it was, and this spring has been its own particular phenomenon. And so, I feel like I haven’t particularly grown used to it, but I have found a way to exist in it that is consistent with how I’ve existed in other spaces and also uniquely responding to this space. This includes prayer.
As I sat in Mass, I was overwhelmed by how ordinary it all felt. And perhaps it just didn’t feel as though I’d been gone long enough for this to feel un-ordinary. It was still Mass, I was still distracted, my attention wandered even as I should have focused on the preface, I slipped into the same physical sensations and well-worn mental routes that Mass offers.
I suppose, in some way, I felt that I had been here all these months. It didn’t feel as if I’d been sundered from this for so long.
I think what I have felt in these past months, more than Christ’s absence, has been his saturated presence. In every corner of the day there has been so much Christ. I have not had any of the usual supports to finding him—sacraments or eucharists, holy water or confession or prayer in pews—but I have felt Christ present each and every day regardless.
One sacramental and lifeline that has been consistently present is a rosary. I have never been one much for the rosary. I don’t like formulas and prescriptions. I find I slip into my own world and words too easily. I am more delighted by my mental world than focusing on something else. But, in quarantine, I have needed some relief from my own mental world. Not an escape from my ever-present interiority, but some recourse within it.
As I was praying about this in church, it struck me how this season has been a truly marian season. And it is through Mary that I have felt Christ so absolutely present. Through imitating her path to opening herself up to the word in all things, through seeking God not in other parts of my life but finding the Word dwelling in the midst of mental anguish, of uncertainty and in darkness.
Through the practice of slipping the rosary through my fingers as I walk around the pond in moonlight, as I hold onto it while falling asleep, as I cling to it curled in the pocket of my pajama shorts, I find that it is a lifeline not as an escape from the present, but as a chain that anchors me to it. That it forms my attention into something more capacious and expansive than a microscopic focus on my own story.
Through Mary, I have found God not needing anything from me but the present, and God being available in each and every moment, even the dark ones.
And as I received communion for the first time in months, what was brought home is how incessantly and tenderly I have been loved throughout all of this. A love that, throughout this, the rosary has been a reminder of and anchor to.