There is an urgent need to return to a normal experience of Christian life through being physically present at Mass, says Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Cardinal Sarah insists that “virtual” Mass services can never replace personal participation in the liturgy. He wrote this is the letter entitled “Let us return to the Eucharist with joy!” which was published with the approval of Pope Francis on September 3. (Read: The Pope’s letter to the victims of Sri Lankan Easter Bombings)
“The pandemic caused by the new coronavirus has produced upheavals,” not only in social and familial relationships, “but also in the life of the Christian community—including the liturgical dimension,” writes Cardinal Sarah.
“This dimension has a theological meaning: God is a relationship of Persons in the Most Holy Trinity.” He stressed that “the house of the Lord presupposes the presence of the family of the children of God.” (Read: An Expert’s Tip to Instilling Faith in Young Children)
Cooperation With Civil Authorities
“The Christian community.. has never made the Church a city with closed doors,” the letter reads. “Formed in the value of community life and in the search of the common good, Christians have always sought insertion into society.” (Read: Churchgoers can expect smaller Masses under the new normal)
Cardinal Sarah added that even in the midst of the pandemic, a great sense of responsibility has emerged. With the public required to listen and collaborate with civil authorities and experts, Bishops of the Church are faced with difficult and painful decisions such as the point of suspending the participation of the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist for a long period.
Return to the Eucharist
Cardinal Sarah reminds everyone that it is necessary and urgent to return to the normality of Christian life—as soon as circumstances permit—which has the celebration of the Eucharist at its center. (Read: Antipolo Church Offers ‘Drive-Thru Communion’ for Parishioners)
The Letter continues, “Aware that God never abandons the humanity He has created, and that even the hardest trials can bear fruits of grace, we have accepted our distance from the Lord’s altar as a time of Eucharistic fasting, useful for us to rediscover its vital importance, beauty, and immeasurable preciousness.”
So, “as soon as is possible,” writes Cardinal Sarah, “we must return to the Eucharist … with an increased desire to meet the Lord, to be with Him, to receive Him and to bring Him to our brothers and sisters with the witness of a life full of faith, love and hope.”
Personal Participation at Mass
Moreover, Cardinal Sarah said that while new means of communication help those who are sick and those who are unable to go to Church, no broadcast is comparable to personal participation or can replace it.
On the contrary, he says, liturgies in which the faithful participate only virtually “risk distancing us from a personal and intimate encounter with the incarnate God.”