For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. John 6:56-58
When I first read these two passages together, in this, the 11th month of the coronavirus pandemic, I could only hear the cruel irony. St. Paul’s assurances that nothing can separate us from the love of God when the virus has literally separated us from our physical building, when public health precautions preclude us from receiving the Eucharist, initially felt hollow. I have never gone this long without receiving the Eucharist before. These months have given me a deeper understanding of the severity of the medieval practice of excommunicating entire lands to punish their political leaders. These months have simultaneously left me feeling powerless and utterly dependent on my community, a community that the pandemic has excommunicated me from. And as painful as this is for me, I cannot imagine how much our dear priests long to celebrate the Eucharist.
Reading these passages against each other, I struggle to make sense of them. I have a lot of questions, and few answers. But maybe the answers are in the questions? This year, might we console ourselves by enduring this separation from the Eucharist as a form of love toward our neighbor? This day, the feast of St. Joseph, might we turn to his example of faith found in the face of cosmic uncertainty? Might we draw on strength already conferred by the bread we have consumed to live the conviction that neither death nor life will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord?
At Tara to-day in this fateful hour
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And fire with all the strength it hath,
And lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness:
All these I place,
By God’s almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the powers of darkness.
Patrick’s Rune (Anonymous; translated by Charles Mangan)