How shall we hum the Lord’s song in an alien land?

Covid-19 poses a threat for full and active participation in the liturgy – or is it an opportunity to reappraise our understanding of the Eucharist? Michael Kirwan SJ teaches at the Loyola Institute, Trinity College, Dublin.

Earlier this summer, at a Covid-restricted Sunday Eucharist in Dublin, the cantor/musician requested that we leave the hymn singing to her; nevertheless, the congregation were invited to hum along. This seemed to be a very good compromise (not least, given the Irish allergy to congregational singing). It also seemed a good image of where we are in the light of the pandemic. We cannot full-throatedly sing the Lord’s song, but this does not mean that the Church is muted entirely.
Two passages from the Christian Testament may help us. In the Acts of the Apostles, we have a lovely image of the earliest Christians at daily prayer:

They went as a body to the Temple every day but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone. (Acts 2.46–47)

In the Gospel of John, in the exchange between Jesus and the woman of Samaria, the question arises of where right worship is to take place: in Jerusalem, or ‘on this mountain’, Mt. Gerazim (the alleged location of Jacob’s heavenly vision in Genesis 27). Jesus assures her that every cultic site, even Jerusalem, has now been superseded:

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