Roman Catholics are again being allowed to sip wine from a chalice during Holy Communion, five months after the Archdiocese of Boston and the Diocese of Manchester, N.H., suspended the liturgical practice over fear of spreading the H1N1 flu.
The lifting of the ban comes in time for Holy Week leading up to Easter on April 4.
"What a great way to start the holiest week in the church by finally receiving the body and blood of Jesus," said Norma Perez, who attends St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Lawrence.
Church officials took the steps in October at the recommendation of health professionals to prevent the spread of H1N1, commonly known as swine flu.
Both the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and the Diocese of Manchester told priests they could lift the ban by Palm Sunday this weekend.
While some churches will start Sunday, some parishes, including St. Robert Bellarmine in Andover and St. James in Haverhill, began earlier this month as soon as they received the letter.
During Mass, the celebrant blesses the Communion wafer, which becomes the body of Christ. And while the wine was not distributed to the faithful during the ban, it was still consecrated as the blood of Christ.
"For some people it wasn't a big change, but for others there was a deep sense of incompleteness," the Rev. Robert Murray, pastor at St. James Church in Haverhill, said about the ban on wine. "They had a longer practice of receiving both and there was a deeper sense of loss when it happened."
The Rev. Richard T. Conway, pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Church in Andover, agreed.
"At the consecration of the bread into the body and the wine into the blood of Christ, we are emphasizing both," said Conway. "Because of the words that we use, in doing so, the sign value is greater when we receive both."
The Rev. Bruce Czapla, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Derry, said reinstituting drinking from the chalice is significant as Christians begin Holy Week, including Holy Thursday — the day Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion when he shared the Last Supper with his disciples.
The symbolism is the reason why St. Michael Church in North Andover will begin offering both the bread and wine at Communion on Holy Thursday.
"It's a wonderful time to do it because it reminds us of the beauty of the celebration," said the Rev. John Delaney, moderator of the pastoral team at St. Michael.
The Rev. John Michalowski, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Salem, said not taking from the chalice was a learning experience.
"We all learn to have a deeper appreciation of both forms of the Eucharist and when something so profoundly important to us is taken away, we have a sense of loss and incompleteness," Michalowski said.
"Now that sense of being satisfied has returned," he said.
Donna O'Brien said she missed taking the wine during Communion.
"I know it's not necessary, but it completes me," said O'Brien, a parishioner at St. Michael Church in North Andover. "I always did both. I felt that if it was the blood of Christ I had no fear."