I hadn’t really thought about how emotional it would be. Celebrating Mass with my parishioners for the last time, at least for the foreseeable future, brought me to tears.

I know we weren’t saying goodbye, but that’s how it felt. I know I will celebrate Mass regularly and they will join me in spirit, but I also know it will be a completely different experience.

I wanted them to know how much I need them. As a pastor of a faith filled flock I told them to stay safe and to take care of one another. I assured them of my prayers and I know they will hold me in prayer in the coming weeks and months.

The idea of not gathering to celebrate the Paschal Triduum of the Lord, the three great days when we commemorate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus at Easter, is almost impossible to contemplate. Church is community, family, that’s why the loss, however temporary, of that family is a real bereavement.

I took the large crucifix from the wall and placed it on the steps of the sanctuary. I invited the people to come forward, to light a candle and to place it near the cross, praying as they did for loved ones, for family and friends and especially for those who are most affected by this horrid virus.

I wasn’t the only one crying. And as I celebrated the Mass, as I prayed the great Eucharistic Prayer my eyes fell on the head of Jesus, bowed in resignation and acceptance. He suffered for me, for us, and now I know he accompanies us all as the world suffers.

But the Cross is a sign of victory. After three days in the tomb, perhaps three months of enforced silence and stillness for us, came Resurrection; new life, new hope, new joy. Then I will hug my parishioners, my friends and feel once again the deep warmth of their love and gratitude. And we will gather to celebrate again; to give thanks to God for the richness of his mercy and the gift of his Son.

I can’t wait!