By Bernardo Cervellera

Dec 3 2020

In addition to masks, social distancing and hand washing, there is the risk of an “afternoon” Christmas Mass, or indeed none altogether: The European Union is suggesting the elimination of all liturgical celebrations, replacing them with online events! We argue about the time of Mass, while we are getting used to the fact that the state is a “healthcare” state that manages (instead of serving) our wellbeing. Christmas is the Life that enters darkness and the shadow of death: The Child Jesus of the oriental icons is wrapped as in a shroud, similar to that of Christ in the tomb.

ROME – Christmas this year promises to be a very sober one. Even if here and there gardens, streets and shop windows are decorated, the atmosphere is far from bustling: everyone is worried by the pandemic which, like an invisible enemy, seems ready to overwhelm us when we distract ourselves from the anti-Covid rules: health masks, social distancing, hand washing and disinfection.

The state rules on the limits to travel, family gatherings, liturgical celebrations far from helping this loss of atmosphere, augment it. In Italy, for example, since there is a curfew at 10pm, it will be almost certainly necessary to celebrate “Christmas Eve” Masses in the afternoon, or a few hours before the “everyone home” produced by the curfew.

The media have been debating whether it is right to bring the Christmas mass forward or postpone until after the curfew. Honestly, it seems like a piecemeal problem. In mission countries, where there are few priests (for example in Myanmar or Cambodia), it is traditional that Christmas is celebrated on the day when the priest arrives who – going from village to village – will have already celebrated 10-20 “Christmas Eve” masses!

Another example: when you go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, it is typical to celebrate Christmas Eve mass in Bethlehem, even if the calendar says it is April, or May, or September, or October. Christmas, the feast of God-with-us is celebrated on December 25, but after all, every day is Christmas because every day we remember the God who has come to dwell among us.

Unfortunately, two parties have also been created among Christians: those who say that the holiday is invalid without the Midnight Mass, and those who are ready to change the time and even not to celebrate any Mass in the name of Covid prevention.

Both ignore one question: can a state even determine a curfew by limiting religious freedom and also the freedom of commerce (if we think of all restaurateurs, theatres and cinemas…)? Wouldn’t it be more respectful of the whole social community (not just Catholics) if the State gave precise indications to limit the spread of the virus and left the various components to implement those indications, perhaps punishing offenders?

Perhaps we are so used to the fact that the State is now a “healthcare” state that manages (not serves) our wellbeing, that all that is left to the faithful are empty arguments over the times of Mass, when there is a lot at stake more. And apparently the European Union is now suggesting the cancellation of all liturgical celebrations, replacing them with online events!

In any case, the poverty and restrictions with which we will celebrate Christmas this year will help us to be more in tune with the heart of its mystery. Our celebrations determined by Covid remind us that Christ came “in darkness and in the shadow of death”, was born in a stable, “there was no room for them in the Inn” (cf. Luke 2,7).

Orthodox theologians point out that the Infant Jesus of the oriental icons of Christmas is swaddled as in a shroud, similar to that of Christ in the sepulchre; that the dark and angular cave recalls that of the sepulchre near Calvary.

For this reason, on my Christmas, I want to be close to all Covid patients and others, who even without knowing it, are part of this crib where Life fights with death and His victory begins. – AsiaNews