This pandemic reminded me of serving Mass.
At the lavabo, when I would pour water over the priest’s hands, he prayed in Latin words from Psalm 26: “I wash my hands in innocence and join the procession around Your altar ... .”
Not understanding the language, I looked at those carefully manicured and impeccably clean hands and wondered why he needed to wash them again.
Later, in the missions, when I saw parishioners bring up chickens, produce and bags of rice, I realized that the lavabo was probably a good idea.
It’s actually a rite from the time of Moses.
Levitical priests washed their hands and their feet in bronze basins before entering the tabernacle.
As we’re now encouraged to wash our hands frequently, we could make this practice a personal lavabo. Those 20 seconds are enough time to call upon God to cleanse me, to purify me, to restore my innocence and make me worthy.
Purell can deterge our hands, but it can also be a chance to disinfect our heart of its impurities — of anger, greed and selfishness.
The are other pandemic rites we could make a part of our spiritual practice.
When I go to the doctor or to certain businesses, someone meets me at the door and swipes my forehead with a thermometer. They want to know if I am running a fever to protect those inside, but also to warn me of potential danger.
We need to take our own emotional temperature, to pause and measure our internal conditions. We may find ourselves feeling upset, rejected, cheated. Knowing this, we can deal with these feelings, not to diminish them, but to learn from them while doing no harm because of them.
While most of us miss the handshake or hug, social distancing can be more than a public health tool. It is urged out of care for others, but, at a distance, we might consider just how, and how much, we do care for them.
Social distancing underscores the impact we have on others. We have the power to make each other deathly sick, but we also have the power to heal and help one another.
Stepping back, we get a wider view of the give-and-take, the gifts and needs in our relationships. We can judge how well we care for others and how well we accept their care for us.
In one way, a pandemic is like any other time: it is what you make of it.