We have had to make a lot of changes and adaptations during the last almost two years of a waning pandemic. We have had to make these changes both corporately as church and individually, deep within. We have had to invest in technology, television and radio broadcast capabilities, new ways of coming together, and marvel ways of thinking about what ‘church’ means to us. We have had to endure closures and false starts and fears. We also had to rethink – or at least pause to think more deeply – about what this God is and how He fits into our lives; or, if He even fits in anymore/any longer.
Some of us have made it through this time with renewed zeal and focus, even as we have fallen into despair from time to time, but some, sadly, have lost their way all together. God is no longer a part of their lives and communities they once supported and loved are lost, and dare I say, they are merely existing day to day longing for something they had along but lost in their attempt to let God go and endure alone, under their own propulsion.
Yes, the pandemic has cost us all dearly in many ways great and small; from financial losses to family members and visits we will never have; birthdays and anniversaries and our mental health, too. For those of us who have always had some instability, the pandemic and its effects have unbalanced us all the more. We have failed to invest in something far greater: the sense of future found only within our very soul. Perhaps the destination we find ourselves at is one of our own navigation.
This past weekend, at Saint Miriam, we witnessed a renewed church! We held a wedding, two baptisms, and welcomed new members with three Masses. We added more chairs to our Sanctuary and marveled in the ways people found hope from within their visit. Now, we have no grand illusions that we will have such ‘filled or capacity’ weekends every time, but just when we were unsure if we were needed, or if those few hostile naysayers were right, God came and showed us that we are; we are desperately needed!
We have always balanced the old and the new. We do not go to extremes such as the Tridentine, or Latin Mass, nor the other end perhaps called Folk Masses. Perhaps, for us survivors of the pandemic, “Novus ordo seclorum” will be true in many ways.
However, we must not let go of the old, or fail to learn from the road we traveled; as we grieve those things lost, and the people who scarred our heart, we purposely claim tomorrow with renewed intention. That is why we were honored to be the recipients of two wonderful ‘ancient’ gifts that will lead us this coming Advent to a new experience.
Bishop Ken’s gift of a now over 578-year-old Book/Liturgy of Hours from 1443, Genoa, Italy, allows us to hold in tension the long history of our holy church, even as we forge ahead to see how God will speak to us tomorrow. This book, held at the hands of several priests – from Genoa to Rome, from the Carmelites to destinations throughout Europe, to Philadelphia, all the way back to Pope Julius II. Saint Miriam is now her home for us to gaze and honor and remember.
Soon, too, at our first Advent Mass, we will see our Celebrants raise a Chalice and Paten set from Rome, once held by the Holy Father himself! These beautiful vessels will allow us to sink deeply into the season, punctuated by both joy and sorrow, penance and hope, as we find our way to the Baby in the manger and renewed sense of God in our lives again.
This Advent at Saint Miriam will include the revival use of Miriam’s Bells, a changed seating structure to allow us to focus more intently on the Advent Wreath, and more pauses for contemplation and to find healing, and perhaps each other.
Until we get there, we must pass through the waning days of Ordinary Time, All Saints and All Souls, and Christ the King Sunday. These are beautiful markers of our church and liturgy to propel us forward and we would be remiss to let them pass without a time of deep thinking.
Thank you for being the best part of Saint Miriam.
See you soon.