I know perfectly well what the theologically correct answers are to the question: “what did you miss during COVID-induced restrictions on in-person gatherings for Mass?” Among such answers I think would be: the reality of an assembly gathered in one, physical place. Receiving the Eucharistic bread and wine. The fusion of our voices in liturgical singing.
And I have spoken these responses myself in various contexts (and without lying). But one thing I really missed, I have rarely articulated — until this post:
I have really, really missed the regular availability of holy water. And this is true in my life not only for ecclesial space but also for domestic devotional life, e.g., the blessing of one’s child. I was therefore glad – as well as somewhat bemused — to find a COVID-attentive holy water dispenser when I went to Mass earlier today, in a Gothic Cathedral no less.
The dispenser, standing in front of one of the massive columns, seemed somewhat incongruous, but then, so are many things in a Gothic Cathedral that continues to be open for congregational worship in the 21st century. So, I went to try the holy water dispenser out, simply sliding my hands underneath a contraption that then delivered some water – “contactless” — into the palm of my hand. I made the sign of the cross. And I knew, immediately: I have really, really missed this. “This” being the sheer materiality of water, blessed, with which to make the sign of the cross.
Now, with COVID-infection rates rising again, I think I will go back to the Cathedral just to make the sign of the cross again, with real holy water, which makes contact with my hand “contactless,” before church doors have to be closed again.