Monday, June 7, 2021

My First Virtual Eucharistic Celebration in Colombia, In Search of Being Human by Olga Lucia Álvarez Benjumea ARCWP

Olga Lucia Alvarez Benjumea ARCWP

Because of my formation, a virtual Eucharistic celebration did not fit in my head, because of all the gaps that it presents. There is no sharing with the community, and if you will excuse me for saying so, it is what I saw in the Masses in the media. In addition, the emptiness of the temples is impressive, due to the pandemic. This situation makes me rethink about creating and formulating other means to announce the Gospel.

It has been many months of observing, reading, praying and thinking about the "dead end" that was looming over the proclamation and practice of the Gospel.  It was not up to me to solve the problem, "the tent is not mine" says the popular adage. However, I could not remain calm. People called me and asked me to celebrate, and I confess that more than once I refused.

The laity has not remained still, the laity moves, they have the word, it is the Church People of God, that when you listen to them, they teach you, challenge you and ask for service, because they have understood how to do and to be Church.

I had done a virtual reflection with a group of teachers, maybe 1 month before. The topic they asked for a Eucharist to place there all their precariousness, they had many sick and deceased relatives, by the COVID 19, whom I contacted, I had said no, that we should make a reflection and prayer on the situation, instead of the Eucharist.

That is what I did on that occasion. There were 23 of them present, mostly women.

On the webinar screen, I was struck by the face of a very sad woman. I called the contact and asked who this person was and if I could talk to her. The contact told me about the situation she was going through and that he would ask her if she wanted to talk to me. She did indeed give me her phone number, we talked and she was devastated by the passing of her mommy.

In one of her bereavement calls, she told me that the mother of one of her coworkers, neighbor and family friend had passed away. This is when she asked me if I could celebrate a Eucharist for both mothers. It was impossible to refuse, my arguments lost weight and I accepted. We set a date and time for June 3/21. She made the invitation and circulated it among her family and friends of the two families.

When the day arrived, we met 32 people through the ZOOM platform, Luz.Adriana, one of the daughters, as they were connecting, was greeting, introducing and telling the affinities and relationships of one with the other. This was great! I was getting to know all of them, there my prejudices were disappearing and I saw that this celebration was going to have a sense of Eucharist. When Luz Adriana introduced me, I took the opportunity to present our ARCWP Movement and some of our history. They asked questions, those who did not know me, no one spoke against it, nor objected to it. 

I took this part, like the celebrations that the first communities must have done, as we see in the Acts of the Apostles. Relatives and friends who were in different places were reunited, now they met again through the dimension of Cyberspace. They greeted each other, they all said very human and deep words coming from their souls, sharing their feelings of pain and sadness for the absence of these two little mothers.

Impossible to ring "the bell" and say: let's begin. The Eucharist had already begun, here we could not spare the time of the meeting. These people longed to talk, to share, to remember the presence-absence of the mothers, to thank the accompaniment and solidarity of those present.

We did not do the "Have mercy", but we sang with joy the Gloria, because we should not be afraid of God. He is our loving Father-Mother, who watches over and cares for everyone. With whom we can converse face to face as Jesus wanted us to refer and approach Him, without intermediaries.

To continue with the celebration, I explained that we were not going to do the usual first readings according to the ritual, because that first part was to share what we had been doing at the beginning as the first Christian communities did.

I asked one of the daughters to read the Gospel John 10:10. I gave her the blessing saying: "Our God-Father-Mother I purified your lips and your heart so that you may announce His Gospel worthily and honestly".

As a Catholic presbyter, in "holy disobedience" in the homily we do not do monologues, but a shared homily.

I only opened the dialogue, inviting participation, since the text presented us with two visions 1) the reality, in the face of corruption and violence in the country, 2) to have life and life in abundance.

Men and women accustomed to being in silence in the temple, this for them was a mouth opener and without any shyness, they began to take advantage of the message of the Word, no more and no less in the middle of the celebration of the Word of God.

I encouraged them to use the Divine Energy that was in us, the Ruah, which allows us to move our limbs, speak and give free rein to live life to the fullest.

It was a joy to listen to how they were internalizing what they had experienced. It was a feeling and experience that "God is in me and I am in Him".

César Augusto, Orlando, Jorge, Roberto, Armengol, said: "this is new for me", "I am speechless" "today I rethink my spiritual life in a very different way". "Rosa Ana, Ingrid, Lía and others were grateful and their contributions were about the daily life, "from our mothers, the first catechists, we learned what it is to give life and life in abundance", "mother never sat at the table without knowing what it was to share and help someone in need". Everyone was unanimous in saying, "I felt like I was participating.

Cesar asked: "How much do you charge for a mass?" I answered: "Cesar, nothing, we celebrate all the sacraments and we do not charge or give papers, because what interests us is the relationship with the Divinity, moreover when in the community the participants give offerings, wrongly called "alms" that money should stay in the community, because it is the community that knows who are in need and can serve there".

I would like to share with you what Ingrid shared with us:

"A few words in these two weeks of disembodiment of the body of my mother Elba Merys Caldera Angarita, popularly known as "La Costeña." 

I have not had the time to sit down to think and feel the absence as such, as I find myself coming back to life after these two weeks of deep darkness of nothingness in which the COVID has taken me, however, the 23 days of my mom's hospitalization, from April 28 to May 20, were a profound surrender to the will of God, to the mystery of life, to the mystery of death, but above all to the mystery of maternal love, that love that beyond unconditional, full of tenderness and hatred, is the love that sustains us in existence and that without knowing it in full awareness, is the universe that allows us to be and to continue creating.

In the days of my mother's hospitalization I would close my eyes and see her breastfeeding me, nursing me, lulling me in her arms, taking care of my illness in the hospital when I was little, crying by my side... going to my school, hugging me when I was a teenager, sleeping together, attending my symphony concerts... I could not think of her in other ways, until today, when I see her coming home saying "Where is Kirrikiki? As she used to call my son... I see her arrive with a bundle of eggs or a papaya for us, I see her sitting in her rocking chair surrounded by the most beautiful flower garden created by her hands and saying: "there God, that's enough of life"... I am an infinite part of her and I am a part of her.

I am an infinite part of her and I know that her journey is beautiful, that she is wrapped in the light of God, walking among lilac flowers to meet the Lord, and that before she will go around the sun in the peace of having been a mother devoted to her children until the end.

Thank you mom, thank you.

We continue walking together, you from the heaven of only God and love and me from this other heaven.

I love you until eternity

Kisses from your daughter".

I dared to tell you, what you have been doing today, this is doing family theology, a domestic theology, a theology that is not of letters but of life.

Then we moved on to the Creed. I shared with you the history of the Nicene Creed. Now, let us ask ourselves what my creed is, what I want to say to the God I love. There was a deep silence. Silence that spoke. I commented: let the silence continue to speak to us and let us leave this part as homework.

For the moment of the offerings, the participants through their cameras presented bread, wine or grape juice and a light. I explained that I had asked them to bring their offerings, to give meaning to our life and sharing. The words of consecration we are all going to repeat together because they are the words of Christ, not mine, not yours. They are Christ's words. The Eucharist is sharing, therefore it is not the private property of anyone, much less of any institution. His command has been very clear: "Do this in memory of me". His command is in the plural, it is not individual. It is for everyone.

Extending our hands over the Gifts of God for the People of God: bread and wine. Food of life and life in abundance, knowing how to share, there can be no injustice. The Eucharist invites us to a social, fraternal and human commitment and change, a commitment that we reaffirm today in our community gathered here. We all said the words of consecration.

They were moments of profound silence, which made us predisposed to pray the prayer that Jesus left us to refer to our Father-Mother: the Our Father.

Each one of us ate the bread and drank the wine. Sealing our collective and prophetic commitment.

The final prayer was all of thanksgiving to the Divine Being for the lives of those who, in their transformation towards the Divine Light, had called us together to celebrate in community as family, sisters and friends, our commitment and covenant for life and life in abundance for all.


*Catholic priestess 

Envigado, June 4/21


1) Personal experience


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