The Days of the Domestic Church
Written by Bernice Zieba on 17/04/2020
These are the days of the domestic church. Since churches all over the world have cancelled Mass and access to the sacraments, our homes have now become our current churches from where we ‘participate’ in Mass online or by listening to the radio. The domestic church is by no means a new invention of Corona times. In fact, the domestic church, the ecclesia domestica, as the Second Vatican Council calls it, always existed.
The Catechism states: ‘The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called “the domestic church”, a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.’ (CCC 1666)
Surely, most of us Catholics already have, more or less, been practising a kind of domestic church in our homes, before the pandemic even began? For example contemplating the rosary in a sacred corner, before a crucifix or an image of the Merciful Jesus. Parents may have recited one or the other prayer with their children, at least before going to sleep. But with the lockdown, the domestic church has become more important.
This was probably the first Easter I spent at home, since having my own family. One of the moments of the liturgy I find touching, is the chanting of lumen Christi and Deo gracias, when the dark church gradually becomes illuminated, symbolizing the light of Christ brought to the world through His resurrection. We weren’t going to be able to experience it this year. And what about the traditional Easter fire in front of the church? Then I remembered that we had a fireplace in the living room. Instead of going to Mass, we watched our parish livestream while a fire was burning in the fire place. Family members held a candle lit by the flames of our own Easter fire.
Catholics are distinctive because, unlike many Protestants, the central act of worship for us is the Mass and this cannot be replaced by anything else, including the preaching of the Word, although this is important. At Mass, it is the Body of Christ we receive, since Christ himself said: ‘This is my body’ and ‘Do this in memory of me.’ But for now, the obligation to attend Mass is removed, and we can only make an act of Spiritual Communion. The Church has gone underground and our homes are the new Catacombs. Almost.