It’s been one year.
One year ago today, I hugged, HUGGED, my friends from ballet goodbye as we said, “See you in two weeks.” My ankle had been hurting a lot, so I was slightly grateful to have the opportunity to rest for a couple weeks. Little did I know. I walked out of the front door without thinking about it too much, not realizing that I would never walk through that front door as a student. When we resumed classes, the front half of the building had to remain closed.
One year ago today, I drove to the Adoration chapel with angry, hurting tears blurring my vision because my parents had told me that it wouldn’t be wise to go to Mass the next day. One year ago, I sat in that chapel and never wanted to leave. Reading my journal from that Holy Hour still causes heartache as I see my shaky handwriting saying, “I can’t have the one thing that gives value to my life. I have literally nothing left.”
And as we all know, things only became more bleak after those first two weeks.
A few weeks into lockdown, my mom sent me to our parish to drop off donation items for the food pantry. As I walked about the church campus, the silence nearly deafened my soul. Out of curiosity, I walked over to the church door itself. Somehow it was unlocked and I stepped inside. I went over to the Adoration chapel even though I knew Adoration wasn’t permitted at the moment, so the Eucharist wouldn’t be exposed. But I just had to see.
I think most of us panic when we see death. Even a dead squirrel is enough to send me shrieking down the street. I think that the reason why we hate dead creatures, even those we’re not attached to, is because our souls see a dead body and instantly register that something intrinsic to that being is no longer present. “It’s not supposed to be that way,” our hearts and minds scream. Something is missing, something is terribly wrong with a world where the body and spirit can separate.
I opened the chapel door and where my eyes usually fall on my Beloved, I saw a gaping hole in the center of the monstrance. Where I usually saw fellow parishioners or friends in prayer, I saw nobody. That chapel, which had been the center of the universe because of the King’s presence, was dead. Life Himself was gone. Even through the sunlit windows, the room seemed so dim.
So much of my personal life was gone too. Nearly as soon as we entered lockdown, I began to daydream about going back to my ballet school. I pictured walking through the front door, excitedly saying hi to my teachers, hugging my friends, dancing in a real studio and not in my living room. Over and over, I imagined throwing my arms around my best friends, returning to Mass, seeing extended family, all like nothing had happened. The world would return to normal. It had to.
And yet, my first ballet class back in a real studio was deeply strange, to say the least, and for a long time I couldn’t focus because of the anxiety associated with the journey back to normalcy. Mass was so far from what I had been accustomed to. It was last Spring that The Lord of the Rings clicked like never before and I found myself asking alongside Sam, “How could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it once was after so much bad had happened?”
The world doesn’t go back to the way it once was. Hearts are shattered, and even when they are healed, they are still affected by scars. We learn from the good and evil of the past, and while we can make amends, we can never reshape what once happened. But praise God for that. Because in just a few weeks, Good Friday will be upon us. And I am so glad that when evil was forever defeated, the world didn’t just slide backwards to a couple weeks before Christ’s crucifixion.
No, our God is not in the business of cutting and pasting. He is the God who writes majesty and glory even from the fragmented horror of deicide. Surely He can restore all that has been lost over the last year.
Last week, when I was home, the Lord used two very concrete events to reveal that He is restoring my heart and desires. With a squinty smile under my mask, I was finally able to walk through the front door of my old ballet studio. One of my teachers was there at the front desk, just as he always had been. Class may be different for now in a world of masks, distancing, and extra cleaning, but it still felt like the same beloved class I had known. Things felt normal and safe. My heart experienced a tender healing.
A few days later, as I was going to Adoration at my home parish, I opened the door and to my surprise, Jesus wasn’t exposed. There was that same lifeless monstrance. But the room wasn’t eerily empty anymore. Because it was as I was walking in that the Eucharist was being placed in the monstrance. As the Host was shut into the monstrance, I was reminded that His Love conquers all and brings light to the darkest places. Even when I too was shut in, He was there. In that moment of glory last week, it was as if Jesus was saying to me, “Daughter, so much has been lost over the last year. But I make all things new. I will fully restore you and all of your loved ones.”
One year ago today, I whispered, “Goodbye,” to Jesus, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. Today, Father held Him inches from my gaze and declared, “The Body of Christ.”
Amen. Yes, Jesus, I believe.