🦠😷The COVID-19 pandemic has truly changed the lives of people across the world. Most of us have experienced the harsh reality of being separated from our family, friends and neighbours. Church life was also completely disrupted, with live-streams and Zoom calls taking the place of worship and fellowship.
💻📱 Although technology came to the rescue and gave us the feeling of being together, it has also brought up the question of what it means for us to be physically present in a church with our fellow Christians. In this post, we attempt to tackle this question by focusing on the Eucharist as the central piece of the puzzle, a spiritual necessity that cannot truly be experienced virtually.
Many of us might wonder –
- Why do we go to church every Sunday, even on weekdays sometimes?
- Why do we spend 3-4 hours of our day of rest to pray, sing hymns and interact with our church community?
- Why go to church if God is already within us? How does it matter if I pray at home or at church?
Let’s take a few steps back.
What Does The Church Mean To Us?
“And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
St. Luke. Acts of the Apostles 2:42
The goal of every Christian is to grow in holiness, to become an image of Christ, through communion with God.  If we are serious about this goal, then we should realize that the best tools to achieve this goal are present within the Church. The Apostles guided the early Christian Church to stand firm in their teaching, celebrate the Eucharist, and pray together. We must strive to do the same.
As St. Paul explains, the Church as a worshipping community of believers is the Body of Christ. After being adopted into the family of God through Baptism, each one of us is a member and part of this Body, and Christ is our head.
And just as no body part can grow or exist on its own, none of us can grow apart from Christ and the church community. Each member has its own function and contributes to the health of the whole body. Therefore, the Church is the place where we grow and help others grow as Christians. It is the place where the Kingdom of God becomes real to us. 
Through The Church, We Receive The Eucharist. Why is This Critical For Us?
“If the physical food nourishes the body, the Holy Eucharist is the food of the soul which makes its partaker worthy to be united with Christ. Concerning this matter, the Lord says: “Those who eat My flesh and drink My blood abide in Me and I in them” (John 6:56). … They will be nourished by receiving Him, and they will grow in grace and be fortified and will abide in Christ, and finally, they will be worthy to inherit with Him His Heavenly Kingdom.” 
The Eucharist is the most important tool that our Lord has given us. Our time in church is to prepare to receive the Lord Himself in the Eucharist through the hands of His anointed priests.
“Try to gather together more frequently to celebrate God’s Eucharist and to praise him. For when you meet with frequency, Satan’s powers are overthrown and his destructiveness is undone by the unity of your faith.” 
St. Ignatius of Antioch (+AD 108)
A very early witness to the importance of the Eucharist in Christian life
Is It Not Enough To Pray At Home?
The Christian faith is not merely an internal matter of the soul that can be practised apart from community. It is vital that our faith be nurtured and strengthened within the tried-and-tested discipline of the Church.
If we think that we can keep away from church services and continue to grow in the faith, we are severely overestimating our abilities. Even saints and monks hurry to church services because they understand the grace and strength that the Lord provides there for spiritual battle. Recall that our Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles visited the Temple and synagogues regularly. 
“Yes, you can pray at home, but not in the same way as you can in the church. When you call upon the Lord by yourself, he does not listen to you in the same way as when you invoke him along with your brothers. Here in church, you have something more … the oneness of mind, the unison of voices, the common bond of love, and the prayers of the priests. This is why the priests lead the prayers. The prayers of the crowd are somewhat weak; but when they are caught up with the stronger prayers of the priests, they rise up to heaven together.” 
St. John Chrysostom (+AD 407)
Individual prayer at home is certainly important, but it is only an extension of the experience of prayer at the church. We should always strive to visit the Lord in His Holy Church as much as we are able, and receive the Lord in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is our source of unity, strengthening each one of us to be renewed in our journey of faith. As a final encouragement, our Lord promises us, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matt 18:20)
Why do you think we should go to church? Let’s discuss in the comments.
 St. Paul. 2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29
 St. Paul. 1 Corinthians 6:15, 10:17, 12:12; Ephesians 4:4-16
 Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas (+2014). Patriarchal Lenten Encyclical. 1991.
 St. Ignatius of Antioch. Epistle to the Ephesians 13
 St. Matthew 21:23; St. Luke 4:16, 22:53, 24;53; St. John 7:14, 8:2; Acts of the Apostles 2:46, 3:1, 5:21, 21:23-26
 St. John Chrysostom. “Homily III.34.” On the Incomprehensible Nature of God, Catholic University of America Press, 2010.
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