English original (PDF, 2 pages, 2.4MB)
June 16, 2021
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Eucharist is our life-line, without it we cannot live. The Sunday Divine Liturgy is the community celebration of Christ in our midst, the event that unites us all together as the Body of Christ. Celebrating the Eucharist is not just a commandment of the Church, but an inner necessity. Christ sustains us, and, without Him, our lives are empty. It is time to return to full parish life, with precautions, and to come back to church weekly to participate in the Lord’s banquet and receive Him in Holy Communion, by which we become the Body of Christ.
Participating in the Divine Liturgy is the best way to remember the sabbath and to keep it holy – the third commandment from the Old Testament. The Lord Himself rested after six days of creation and “blessed the sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8,11).
In the gospel account, we see Jesus observing the sabbath by going to the synagogue and teaching there. We mirror the life of Christ by conforming to what Jesus Himself did. At the Last Supper, Jesus commanded us to take and eat and drink, and to do it in His memory (Mt 26;26-30, Mk 14:22-26, Lk 22:14-20, 1Cor 11:23-26). The Eucharist is our food on life’s journey, filling us with joy, and transforming us to be witnesses of Christ to our world.
It has been a long, difficult year since March 2020. Many have experienced great pain and suffering during the pandemic. Many have died and many are still recovering from the long-term effects of Covid-19. We honor the heroes – nurses, doctors, and all medical professionals – who brought comfort, along with priests who brought the Sacrament of the Sick to Covid patients.
Now, as we trust in the Lord, and with great confidence in the vaccines, our lives are opening up to more activity. It is time to return to the obligation of Sunday Divine Liturgy. Because our communities are scattered over many states, we still must follow the guidelines given us in the areas where we live. Most states have opened up once again. Churches are included in the re-opening.
Our obligation to participate in worship at the Divine Liturgy is an obligation of love as well as a command of the Lord. Worshiping by watching a live-stream Liturgy is permissible only for those who are ill, have recently been exposed to Covid-19 or any other communicable illness; those who are home-bound or in hospitals or other health-care facilities, those not yet vaccinated, and those of advanced age. Holy Communion to be provided by a visit of the priest or deacon. I recommend we continue live-streaming our services for them. All other parishioners who are well and ambulatory need to be in church to receive the Eucharist.
The obligation to return to Sunday Divine Liturgy attendance becomes effective June 27, 2021. We look forward to welcoming all our faithful back to the celebration of Divine Liturgy after this long and difficult year.
Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Eparchial Bishop of Newton