68 days.

That is exactly how many days it had been since I celebrated Mass. I was very blessed to have been given an opportunity to attend Daily Mass on Thursday before public masses were suspended. And the first day that the Archdiocese of Detroit allowed the Latin Rite churches to celebrate daily Mass (May 19) I searched until I found one that I could attend. I will tell you about that Mass experience, but first I want to share the events leading up to it.

Just a few days before my first Mass attendance during this time, the Chaldean churches were distributing the Eucharist in the parking lot. As we pulled up my husband made a joke about it feeling like a McDonald’s drive-through. I started to retort, “I’m not ordering French fries-“but I couldn’t finish my statement because I saw the priest holding the saborium full of hosts and I immediately got choked up. I then approached the Eucharist almost in disbelief that I was going to be able to receive the Eucharist. I do not think I realized how much I missed it and how much I needed it until that moment. I broke down into tears. I genuflected, received, and continued to weep until I got home. It was such a beautiful and powerful experience for me. As I reflect on why I was crying so much it was just overwhelming gratitude for the gift of the sacraments. I have heard several people refer to it as Easter Sunday, and I honestly went through all of holy week in the car. The last supper, the passion, the death, and finally the resurrection.

After receiving the Eucharist, I did not feel satisfied. It increased my hunger! I then wanted to attend Mass as soon as possible. People around me kept telling me to be patient, but I could not do it anymore. So, I found a Mass time, worked out the logistics with my husband, kids, and work, and walked through those doors on May 19. Again, a wave of disbelief washed over me. Am I allowed to walk through these doors? Is that really a priest standing on the altar and people in the pews? I took my pump of hand sanitizer (as opposed to holy water) and sat in my pew. I looked around, so curious to see who had taken all the perceived and real risks to be there and witness the sacrifice of the Mass. Although this was not a church I have ever attended, I can assume those in attendance were among your typical Daily Mass attendees. Mostly retirees, one family with three teen boys, and a few younger people, I would estimate about 40 in total. I knelt and got sucked into the Mass. It had been so long I was so happy to be there. Several times during the celebration I would cry out of disbelief and gratefulness. As Mass ended, I again was overwhelmed with gratefulness. But, then, it all came back to earth. Right before the priest walked out of the church, he directed us to a woman that would provide instructions for us to help clean and disinfect the pews. She rolled out a cart of supplies and 20 people walked up and started cleaning, not 1 minute after the conclusion of Mass. There was not even time to say a prayer of gratitude. Then a gentleman started praying the rosary very loudly and a few others shifted their seats to sit closer to him in the first pew. I looked to the side and the family with the teen boys was having a conversation in the back of the church (not the lobby). As I was trying to take all this in and decide if I had time to stay for the rosary a woman walked up to me and very loudly said, “if you want to stay for the rosary, you need to move by the rosary man so we can clean.” She was very well- intentioned, but I could not help but smile and laugh at everything that was taking place. We had not been able to attend Mass for more than two months. I thought people would be running to church, kneeling at the altar, just yearning to be close to the Lord again! Instead it was like a typical daily Mass crowd just getting back to their morning routine. I looked at the crucifix and smiled at God. Later that day, I was praying about what I had witnessed, and what came to me was Exodus 32 when ​Moses went up to pray and the people grew restless because he was gone too long so they made a golden calf to worship. Also the story in John 21 after Jesus died and Peter and the other disciples just went back to fishing. After spending years with Jesus doing ministry, they just went right back to what they had been doing before.

We are getting ready to resume public Masses in the Chaldean Church. What have we been doing during this time of desolation without being able to physically attend Mass and receive the sacraments? Are we prepared? How will we approach the altar? In terms of work and other obligations we will get back to our routines eventually, but when Jesus resurrected things were changed forever. The disciples were not called to go back to their old lives, they were called to live differently. Our faith, likewise, should be awakened by Christ’s resurrection never to return to our old ways.

I do not think it is a coincidence that public Mass will resume on the feast of the Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 is such a powerful event, there were tongues of fire coming down on the disciples! As we approach Mass this Sunday, and as we continue to resume Mass whether daily or weekly, let us do so with more intentionality and reverence than before. They say that sometimes you must lose something to appreciate it. Let us find the grace in this two-month drought without the sacraments to truly appreciate them and embrace them and never take them for granted again.