Essay from Michael Robinson

Joan Beebe and fellow contributor Michael Robinson
Joan Beebe (left) and fellow contributor Michael Robinson

Familiar with a Past Life

The ringing of the church bells brings to life a freshness that only comes in fall. Ringing in the noon hour while the park is full of people wearing mask. Single people all afraid to be in a crowd. No more gathering at the Station of the Cross. The tower doors of the Old Catholic church were closed. The bell continues to ring as the noon hour passes us by. It remains empty a shadow amongst those no longer sitting in the pews. Alone the priest stands at the altar praying while reciting the last rites of life that has died among the congregation. No one comes any longer as the noon bells summons them. There is an atmosphere of delusion a cloud of doubt for the salvation of the perish. No passing of communion nor drinking from the chalice the remains empty.

No more confession of sins as the confessional before the ringing of the bells. Empty except the priest listing to his own confession. He only hears the bells ringing at noon. No one listens but God to his prayers. The murals have all been painted over many years ago. No more statues of the Holy Family. One a few candles now burn in an empty church. Dust collects on the stain glass windows where the sun would bring to life the liveliness of colors. No one remember a vibrant church which had died long before the virus.  

Perhaps it was not the virus but rather a sense of loss of the congregation. The burning of candles on the altar and the votive candles which gave solace. One member sitting in front of the rows of candles burning. One person looking at the Stations of the Cross-seeking redemption for his sins after his confession. It all was removed decades ago. It was just a matter of time that as each reminder of the Holy Family was slowly stripped down that it was inevitable that no one would remain in the pews.

The wave of television cameras streaming the mass to a congregation on a Sunday morning. Televangelist asking for donations proclaiming salvation for those with money. There is no hint of Jesus and his teachings as the preachers now only ask for contributions. It all changed when the church services went live. Before the people was isolated from God in the Maga Churches. It is a show a form of entertainment. Now it too has felt the impact of those no longer able to attend their Maga Churches.

It all changed when the candles stopped burning. It stopped when no longer when the church became a show. Individualism was going by way of a network broadcast. The bell still rings as the one priest stands alone. A time when the priest would visit the sick and shut ins before the healing via way of the television. Salvation was personal. A relationship with God was personal and the prayers was said after the confession at the altar. Before the camera rolled and the bell rung at noon salvation was free. 

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