S. Stephen's Church
"Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56)
Saturday, March 14, 2020
Dearly Beloved in Christ,
I write on the eve of our now cancelled Masses for the Third Sunday in Lent. We do not know how long we will have to do without our public services of worship. In any case, they are suspended until further notice. I think we may need to wrap our minds around the possibility of the heretofore unthinkable suspension of Holy Week and Easter, less than a month away. In doing so, I commend our Lord Jesus’s simple yet profound statement concerning the observance of the Sabbath Day, when he and his disciples were criticized by the Pharisees for healing the sick and otherwise doing good works on the Seventh Day: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
I share with you three links.
The first one is on the Coronavirus and concerns the CDC’s guidelines on mitigating the spread of the virus: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community-mitigation-strategy.pdf.
The second link is something you can use repeatedly: the Great Litany and Supplication from the Book of Common Prayer. The Litany is what we sang in procession at S. Stephen’s on the First Sunday in Lent. The Supplication is rarely used, except on occasions of great national concern, such as this pandemic:
The third link is the Diocese of Rhode Island’s various resources for worship at home: https://www.episcopalri.org/worship-at-home/. Notably tomorrow, Sunday, March 15, is a broadcast of service at 11:00 am led by the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Picking up from my opening paragraph, let me share with you some things from the Book of Common Prayer, both 1979 and 1928 editions, concerning the issue of not being able physically to taste and touch the Sacrament of Holy Communion under the Forms of Bread and Wine:
Spiritual Communion When Unable Physically to Receive the Sacrament
From the Book of Common Prayer 1979, page 457: If a person desires to receive the Sacrament, but by reason of extreme sickness or physical disability, is unable to eat and drink the Bread and Wine, the Celebrant is to assure that person that all the benefits of Communion are received, even though the Sacrament is not received with the mouth.
From the Book of Common Prayer 1928, page 323: If a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness, or for want of warning in due time to the Minister, or by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, the Minister shall instruct him, that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and stedfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the Cross for him, and shed his Blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving him hearty thanks therefor, he doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his soul’s health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth.
You can pray A Form of Spiritual Communion at home by visiting this link: http://anglicanhistory.org/oceania/wood_communion1916.html
The application of this principle of Spiritual Communion to our present situation of the highly contagious COVID 19 virus should bring us comfort. Most especially I commend the words of our Lord on this subject of his life-saving Body and Blood in the Gospel according to Saint John 6:25-71.
I will be in touch with you this week in due course, by written and by spoken/audio, such as you have been receiving from me the past nine months on our website, where our sermons are available both in text and audio. So stay tuned, pray for our beloved S. Stephen’s, and let us know if you need help.
Fr. Andrew C. Mead
Fr. Andrew C. Mead