What is going to happen when the corona pandemic is over? How will our current experience influence the way we celebrate liturgy and gather in churches in the post-pandemic-time? I would like to share some personal predictions.
Prediction #1: People will hesitate to receive the Eucharistic chalice.
Communion under both species—modestly re-introduced by the Second Vatican Council, afterwards permitted in more and more cases, often requested, explained and backed up by liturgical scholars—has not yet become a common practice in Roman Catholic liturgies. Many people never got used to it, felt unable to cope with it whenever the chalice was offered to them, and some always found it disturbing to drink from a chalice that had been touched by other people’s lips before. I am quite sure that the number of people who hesitate to drink from the Eucharistic chalice will increase. No explanation of the alcohol’s disinfectant virtue will change their minds—the hesitation does not originate in scientific arguments, but in expectations of cleanliness and hygienics.
Prediction #2: New ways of sharing the Eucharistic chalice will be tried out.
Some ministers will try to introduce new ways to share the Eucharistic chalice in a more hygienic way. I saw small individual glasses in Lutheran and Latter-day Saints’ liturgies. Some colleagues mock them due to their resemblance to shot glasses, but they are a simple option to share a beverage among a large group of people. Of course the symbolism of sharing one chalice is lost, but second-best options are better than no options (and we do the same with Eucharistic hosts which do not at all remind one of one shared bread).
Prediction #3: Liturgical gloves will revive.
Some ministers will prefer to use gloves for certain liturgical acts. Not the old ritual gloves that bishops used, but sanitary gloves. Some priests will use them in order to prevent to infect others or be infected, e.g. for the Anointing or for the Communion on the tongue.
Prediction #4: People will hesitate to stand or sit close to each other.
After all we heard about exhalation, aerosols, and droplet infection, the number of people who prefer to stand or sit in big distances to others—especially strangers— will increase. Maybe people here in Austria will hesitate to use the old baroque pews where they are squeezed in without any chance of movement. They will request single seats instead, a sort of choir stalls, or at least modern pews that leave more space to everyone.
Prediction #5: Certain objects will be regularly disinfected.
Sacristans will have more work than before: Objects that people touch or kiss will be disinfected on a regular basis: Liturgical vessels, baptismal fonts, icons, doorknobs, Gospel books, lectionaries, hymnals, etc. New patterns of cleanliness and hygienics will be established all over public places.
Prediction #6: Public law will enforce new hygienic rules.
Depending on the situation in different countries with their respective legislation, I can imagine that future public law will prohibit certain religious practices, e.g.: drinking from one chalice, open Holy Water fonts, Anointing without gloves, etc. Public law might make my predictions #1—5 true even without anyone’s personal request.
Time will tell whether I am right or not. Maybe my predictions are complete nonsense, and we all will return to our liturgical life as it used to be in the pre-pandemic-time. I am quite convinced that #1 and #6 will prove themselves true, and I see #2—5 in descending probability. I am curious what Pray Tell readers think!