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A spiritual communion on Holy Thursday

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Before he left them, Jesus set aside an evening to be with his disciples. At the Last Supper, he spoke words of encouragement to them and tenderly washed their feet. In the breaking of the bread, he established the Eucharist, a way to be physically present with them always.


But this Holy Thursday, Catholics around the world weren’t able to gather together or receive holy Communion due to the dangers posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Still, priests celebrated Mass in remembrance of Christ’s gift of self, and from the safety of their homes, many were able to watch online. In the Diocese of Arlington, Catholics participated in Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrating the Mass of the Lord's Supper at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington via livestream.


The sound of the cathedral organ emanated from laptop and cellphone speakers. Through the pixels of their screens, viewers saw clergy dressed in white and an altar adorned with purple flowers. They saw plumes of incense they could not smell and Eucharistic bread and wine they could not taste. Bishop Burbidge could not follow Christ’s example by washing the feet of his people. But he assured the faithful that they remained spiritually united with God and one another.


In his homily, Bishop Burbidge asked the faithful to offer their spiritual communion for those fighting the coronavirus, for medical professionals, for those who have died and that the people of God will be together again in churches soon. “Pray that there will be a greater sense of wonder and awe for the precious gift of the holy Eucharist,” he said.


Bishop Burbidge said he had hoped to celebrate Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday but instead postponed the celebration until after the pandemic. The Mass is a moving experience for priests, who together renew their priestly promises recalling the day Christ instituted the priesthood.


“Pray for your bishop and priests that we will be holy and faithful to the promises we have made and generous in our service,” said Bishop Burbidge. “Especially now as we are trying so hard to stay spiritually and pastorally connected to all of you who we love so very much.”

On Holy Thursday, around 400 young adults join the Seven Churches Virtual Pilgrimage, hosted by the Diocese of Arlington Young Adult Ministry April 9. ZOEY MARAIST  |  CATHOLIC HERALD


aor1Use this time of physical separation to grow in holiness, said Bishop Burbidge. “This time of crisis, these unsettling days I believe are giving us new ways and opportunities to wash the feet of one another,” he said. Reach out to the lonely or scared, practice patience with those in your household, and forgive those who have betrayed you, he urged. Donate to the church so that its ministry can continue. 


After Mass, instead of traveling to altars of repose at different parishes, around 400 young adults joined the Seven Churches Virtual Pilgrimage, hosted by the Diocese of Arlington Young Adult Ministry. Via livestream, priests from Clifton to Colonial Beach gave a short reflection on Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and his arrest by the chief priests and Pharisees. Then, the virtual community spent moments in quiet prayer in front of a tabernacle miles away. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020