A new mood pervades every socially distanced conversation now that America’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is underway. And, I should add, the delays in distribution have done nothing to dampen this mood. For whatever the logistical and moral failures of our country’s sundry vaccination programs, it is undeniable that hope has entered the scene in a new and palpable way. There is an end in sight to this nightmare; that is reason enough for joy. It is a joy of resurrection, of new life in the flesh.
We anticipate a return to life as we knew it, to communion with one another in all its varied forms. We eagerly await the return of the old, happy bustle, restaurants and bars and coffee houses full and humming with chatter and clatter. We also look forward to what we cannot expect: those chance meetings that constitute the thrill of the everyday. The totality of human community—which must include those nameless faces, those passing mysteries who exist in the background of our quotidian routines—is just months, not years, away. Soon, I will be able to smile at a stranger with more than just my eyes.
“Peace be with you,” the resurrected Christ said to his disciples when he appeared in their midst, behind doors they had shut in fright. To say the same words to one another, on an ordinary Sunday, would mean resurrection; to sing with one another even more so. A few Sundays ago, the celebrant at Mass announced that the strictures on public singing had been relaxed and people should once again join in the chants of the major Mass parts. Barely anyone did. Fear has too much choked the sanctuary, and we long to hear the words, “Fear not,” so that we may clothe Christ’s sacramental flesh, exposed and present among us, with a fitting raiment of praise.