You gather them into Your church to be one, as You, Father, are
one with Your Son and the Holy Spirit. You call them to be Your
people, to praise Your wisdom in all Your works. You make them
the body of Christ and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
–Preface VII for Ordinary Time, CEC Sacramentary
This past week we lost Patti Risley to COVID-19. She is the only death we have had as a parish to COVID-19, which is remarkable. Patti was delightful, was dedicated to children, loved her family, loved NY Yankees baseball, and was faithful to her attendance with us as a community. Her going on to the Lord, transitioning to the next life, is a cause for rejoicing for her (and us eventually), but leaves me with a sadness.
I questioned the sadness within me. I have only been here for a year and a half as the Dean and your priest. Why, I asked the Lord, did I feel this constant sense of loss and why did it feel differently from other losses that I have mourned over the years? I realized that my mourning was different because I was mourning on behalf of the community of faith called Christ the King.
When we become members of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church, we are one with other Christians around the world, in heaven, and to come. When we become members of a Parish it is more than just a club, it is a shared way of life: faith, morals, generosity, kindness are all hallmarks of our life together. A person from New Paltz told me this past week that he had visited many mosques, churches, temples, etc. in many places, but has never met the generosity and kindness he received when he once visited Christ the King. I think that is because we take seriously what St. Paul said to the Church at Corinth: “When one member suffers, all suffer; when one member is honored, all rejoice.” (1 Cor. 12:26)
So, our brother Charlie is suffering, his family is suffering; we all are suffering.
Also, this week Kristi LaPaitra, one of our many candidates for membership, was in a car accident that totaled her car. She recounts a miracle that allowed her to get out of the car and we were rejoicing in the emergency room lobby at the hospital. Immediately, people thought of her boys who were just baptized. “Can we make her a meal?” “Can we call her?” The accident was not just hers or the boys, but it was ours.
The Preface is the part of the Eucharistic Prayer that we pray just after I say “Lift up your hearts,” and you say, “We lift them up to the Lord.” We have many Prefaces for the different seasons and days of the Church. In Ordinary Time Preface VII it prays that we would be made one like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one. This same prayer is found on the lips of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of St. John 17. Think about that for a minute.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons and one essence. The Greek says, “substance”. Essence is the basic, real, invariable nature of someone or something. Substance is that of which a thing exists. We believe that in Baptism our essence, our substance, is changed to be one with God in Jesus Christ. We are one with God, one with each other. The groundedness of this oneness is more than just a membership. It is our very breath, our existence.
Regardless our differences, especially in the politicization of COVID-19, which took from us one of our precious dear souls this past week, we are one. Therefore, we ache from the car wreck with Kristi, we mourn with Charlie, and we rejoice with Patti who now gets to see the Lord face to face. So, feel these things with our fellow members of the essence and thank God we have each other and have Him.