07 April 2020, The Tablet

It would take an effort to make sure we behave ourselves, but not impossible


 

It’s Holy Week and where are we? In front of a screen, that’s where, in some doubt about the etiquette of livestreaming. Do you join in the responses for an online Mass? Do you bow at the consecration if it’s done on screen, on the basis that, three miles away, the host is being raised at that moment at the altar in Farm Street, Mayfair? Should we be kissing our own crucifixes on Good Friday? A friend who’s had it with virtual religion is thinking of going with her cleaner to stand outside the doors of an actual church for Easter, on the basis that some proximity to the Blessed Sacrament is better than none. As part of her daily exercise allowance, obviously.

It was very moving to read the reflections of Professor Jim McManus in The Tablet last week on the reasons he recommended to the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales that they shut the churches for the duration of the crisis. Like lots of the rest of us, he feels “physical pain at not being able to enter a church”. If we believe in the Real Presence, that’s the appropriate response, but I’m sure that Protestants too feel the pang of being barred from the still, sacred space of a church.

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