Sinning to Receive Christ

Written by Joel on June 10th, 2008

This post is in response to a comment left by “against heterodoxy.” The comment was made on my previous post about my perceived invitation to communion. The commenter says what I did was a sin.

I have never been confronted with this issue in quite this way. I have been told that it is inappropriate or wrong but not a sin.

Sin, as defined in the Catechism:

is an offense against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.” (Ps 51:4) Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,” (Gen 3:5) knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.” (St Augustine De civ. Die 14, 28: PL 41, 436) In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation. (Phil 2:6-9)

If sin is something that separates us from God, “and sets our hearts against Him,” how can receiving Christ in the Eucharist (by a baptized, repentant Christian) ever be understood as sin? My heart was completely with Christ as I received him. If sin is something that separates us from God, then isn’t not receiving Eucharist at mass a sin?

Certainly one can receive in an unworthy matter (1 Cor 11:27-29) I believe that “unworthy manner” refers to the reception of those who would not identify themselves with Christ – receiving him is a lie, and Christians who approach with an unrepentant heart. Does this warning apply to baptized non-Catholic Christians who are repentant of their sins?

A few more questions came to me as I read the comment:

When non-Catholic Christians celebrate the Eucharist in their own churches, is this a sin? If it is, why? If not, why is Roman Catholic Eucharist a sin for Protestants? How do the meals which Jesus shared with sinners relate to the Lord’s Supper? (Mt 9)

How does one atone for the “sin” of receiving Christ? Does the Eucharist belong to the Church or does it belong to Christ?


 

15 Comments so far ↓

  1. Against Heterodoxy says:

    I am going to quote from Catholic Answers’ essay on the subject from catholic.com.

    “The Church sets out specific guidelines regarding how we should prepare ourselves to receive the Lord’s body and blood in Communion. To receive Communion worthily, you must be in a state of grace, have made a good confession since your last mortal sin, believe in transubstantiation, observe the Eucharistic fast, and, finally, not be under an ecclesiastical censure such as excommunication.

    First, you must be in a state of grace. “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:27–28). This is an absolute requirement which can never be dispensed. To receive the Eucharist without sanctifying grace in your soul profanes the Eucharist in the most grievous manner.

    A mortal sin is any sin whose matter is grave and which has been committed willfully and with knowledge of its seriousness. Grave matter includes, but is not limited to, murder, receiving or participating in an abortion, homosexual acts, having sexual intercourse outside of marriage or in an invalid marriage, and deliberately engaging in impure thoughts (Matt. 5:28–29). Scripture contains lists of mortal sins (for example, 1 Cor. 6:9–10 and Gal. 5:19–21). For further information on what constitutes a mortal sin, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Out of habit and out of fear of what those around them will think if they do not receive Communion, some Catholics, in a state of mortal sin, choose to go forward and offend God rather than stay in the pew while others receive the Eucharist. The Church’s ancient teaching on this particular matter is expressed in the Didache, an early Christian document written around A.D. 70, which states: “Whosoever is holy [i.e., in a state of sanctifying grace], let him approach. Whosoever is not, let him repent” (Didache 10).

    Second, you must have been to confession since your last mortal sin. The Didache witnesses to this practice of the early Church. “But first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one” (Didache 14).

    The 1983 Code of Canon Law indicates that the same requirement applies today. “A person who is conscious of a grave sin is not to . . . receive the body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing; in this case the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible” (CIC 916).

    The requirement for sacramental confession can be dispensed if four conditions are fulfilled: (1) there must be a grave reason to receive Communion (for example, danger of death), (2) it must be physically or morally impossible to go to confession first, (3) the person must already be in a state of grace through perfect contrition, and (4) he must resolve to go to confession as soon as possible. “

    Lots more at Who Can Receive Communion?

    Simply put, you are not in full communion with the Church, and the priest who allowed you to receive did a terrible thing in leading you to sin. If we accept Catholic beliefs, he put your soul in jeopardy. If we do not accept Catholic beliefs, why are we in a Catholic church? Open communion is not Catholic, or Orthodox, or a part of apostolic Christianity at all. It is a purely Protestant conceit. If you intend to pursue Catholicism, I would suggest that you find a different parish because the pastor of the one you have been attending has spit upon the ancient, binding rules of the Church and is leading you down the wrong path. I have to wonder why such a man is Catholic, let alone a priest.

  2. Joel Walkley says:

    Could you conceive of a Protestant free of mortal sin? And doesn’t our common baptism necessarily insert us into the Church?

    Also according to Canon Law communion is NOT reserved solely for Roman Catholics. Protestants are permitted in times of grave necessity. 844 subsection 2.

    Also, I believe that 1 Cor 11 is a condemnation of the practice of closed communion. “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.” (verse 20-21)

    I am hungry.

  3. Against Heterodoxy says:

    Joel,
    I understand your hunger because I have been there. I was a convert, too, and I waited a long time to receive Our Lord.

    If we accept Catholic beliefs, and I absolutely do or I would never have converted, baptism erases the stain of original sin, but along the road of life, everyday sins accumulate. Until a person has made a first confession and done their penance, they are not free of mortal sin. Therefore no Protestant is free of mortal sin. We do not believe in such fanciful (and damgerous) ideas as “once saved always saved” which I personally see as a free license to do whatever. The final fate each individual is of course up to God, but we as Catholics believe that Jesus Christ instituted the Sacraments for a reason: as a way to bestow grace on us.

    As for whether Protestants are sinning when they take their own version of communion, I wouldn’t say so because the vast majority of them are not aware of the gravity of what they are doing. I have seen some Protestants do things like use saltine crackers and grape juice and I have a hard time believing anyone can consider such a thing anything other than absolute blasphemy, although I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. But if you KNOW what the Catholic Church teaches and you STILL receive communion even when you don’t fully agree with those teachings, yes you are knowingly committing a sin. On the flip side, I would be sinning if I took communion in my in-laws’ Methodist church, because I know their Eucharist is not valid according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, which I fully accept.

  4. Agellius says:

    If I might put in my own two cents about why it was a sin: Mainly because the Eucharist is the sacrament of unity. But Protestantism has disunited the Church. You, by remaining Protestant, are endorsing and contributing to that disunity. To do that, while at the same time partaking of the sacrament of unity, makes it a mockery.

    Also the Eucharist is a sacrifice: In receiving the Eucharist, you are partaking of the altar, which is a way of showing agreement and participation in the sacrifice (1 Corinthians 10:18). But if you don’t even believe the Eucharist is a sacrifice, you can’t show agreement and participation in it. Therefore again, to eat of the altar makes a mockery of the sacrifice. (If on the other hand you do believe the Eucharist is a sacrifice, why do you remain disunited from the Church?)

    Yes, you were baptized and that makes you a member of the Church upon your baptism. BUT, if after being baptized you continue to make the choice to be outside the Church, that in itself is a mortal sin. Of course, as with all mortal sins, it’s only a mortal sin if you’re doing it on purpose. However in your case it’s hard not to conclude that you are doing it on purpose. You have announced to the world that you suspect the Catholic Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, yet are choosing to remain outside it. And by “remaining outside it,” I mean you are not submitting yourself to its authority and teachings.

    Quite possibly you are innocent of mortal sin in that regard, assuming you’re ignorance of the truth of the faith is non-culpable ignorance. Still, if you are considering the possibility that the Church is the true one — and presumably that’s the reason you wanted to receive communion in a Catholic Church — at the very least you ought to respect and submit to its requirements for reception of the Eucharist, even if currently you don’t understand them fully. There’s something contradictory about saying, “I think this might be Christ’s true Church, the very one founded by himself. Therefore I’m going to receive communion from it, although that violates its own rules forbidding me to do so. Those rules are obviously wrong, even though I suspect that it’s Christ’s own Church, teaching in his name with the authority he granted it.”

    You write, “Certainly one can receive in an unworthy matter (1 Cor 11:27-29) I believe that “unworthy manner” refers to the reception of those who would not identify themselves with Christ – receiving him is a lie, and Christians who approach with an unrepentant heart.”

    It’s not up to you to decide what “unworthy manner” means. It’s not your Eucharist. It seems to be the typical Protestant attitude, that it’s up to each individual to determine for himself what the rules are, based on his personal reading of scripture. But in the Catholic Church, if you believe that it is what it claims to be, you will suppress your own feelings and opinions and submit to the Church’s authority, which is the authority of Christ in the sense that he granted the Church authority to act and to teach in his name. I would suggest reading in the letters of St. Paul and in the book of Acts, how submissive the people were to the authority of the Apostles, and how the Apostles spoke with authority and expected to be obeyed.

    You ask, “When non-Catholic Christians celebrate the Eucharist in their own churches, is this a sin? If it is, why? If not, why is Roman Catholic Eucharist a sin for Protestants?”

    Because the Catholic Eucharist is very unlike Protestant “Lord’s Suppers” or “Communion Services”. The main differences being that we believe the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of the Lord, which I think only Anglicans and Lutherans believe of their own Eucharists, though not in the same sense. And second, that the Catholic Eucharist is believed to be a sacrifice and not merely a commemorative meal: a true and actual offering of Christ’s true and actual Body and Blood, constituting a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary. This I don’t think any Protestant body agrees with.

    You ask, “Does the Eucharist belong to the Church or does it belong to Christ?”

    There is no difference! The Eucharist is the Church’s and the Church is Christ’s. For that matter the Eucharist itself IS Christ! He entrusted his own Body and Blood to the Church, that it might have something acceptable to offer to the Father. This is an astounding claim, to be sure. But viewed in this light, the Eucharist is the Church’s most sacred and precious possession. Is it any wonder she is very particular about how it’s used, and to whom it is offered? Should she stand on street corners with baskets full of Christ’s Body, handing them out to all who walk by? Toss them up like confetti at weddings? Sell them in cracker boxes at the grocery store?

    If these things sound incongruous and irreverent, then perhaps you should ask yourself, why are they irreverent? If each person can decide for himself what makes him worthy to receive Christ’s body, then why not pass them out on street corners to whoever wants them? Why must it be done in a church? It’s done in a church because it’s a sacrifice which needs to be made, with due reverence and dignity, on an altar. And you don’t pass around the fruits of the altar to just anyone, especially when they don’t even believe in the sacrifice being offered. To do so, again, makes a mockery of the sacrifice.

    I’m guessing some of this is new to you. If you need any help understanding any of it, I would be delighted to be of assistance in any way I can. May God bless you in your studies.

  5. Joel Walkley says:

    Thanks Agellius for the time you took to comment to my post. And thank you for your concerns.

    Let me respond to your comment with a quote from Unitatis Redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism)Section 3.

    “in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions made their appearance and quite large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church-for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame. The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect.”

    Being Protestant is not a simple matter of choosing to remain outside of the Church. The Catholic Church recognizes that I am in the Church, though that communion is imperfect. I am not to blame for our disunity. My submission to the church will not end the rift. Even if all Protestants lay down the protest and convert, it will leave great scars unhealed. This is going to be a process that we must endure together.

    Doesn’t the Catholic Church teach that the sacraments accomplish what they proclaim? That Baptism actually cleanses sins, marriage actually binds. Why can’t the Eucharist actually unite? Why is this the only sacrament that you say is not efficacious.

    I want to explore the nature of the Church, and how Christ belongs to it. I do believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. However, I believe that unity is found in Christ, not necessarily in the structures of any one church found on Earth. Also “catholic” in the creed does not refer to Roman Catholicism, but rather means “according to the whole.” If we are to live the creed we must begin to recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Is there any way to celebrate this “imperfect unity” which the Church describes? And how can we work together to make this unity grow, so that we may recognize and partake of Christ together?

  6. Jim Taylor says:

    [[This post is in response to a comment left by "against heterodoxy." The comment was made on my previous post about my perceived invitation to communion. The commenter says what I did was a sin.]]

    I do not believe that, in the context you described, anyone except God could know whether you have sinned or not.

    [[I have never been confronted with this issue in quite this way. I have been told that it is inappropriate or wrong but not a sin.
    Sin, as defined in the Catechism:is an offense against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.” (Ps 51:4) Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,” (Gen 3:5) knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.” (St Augustine De civ. Die 14, 28: PL 41, 436) In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation. (Phil 2:6-9)]]

    The above is a definition of a deliberate and mortal sin. It does not speak to sins committed by one who is unaware that he is committing a sin.

    [[If sin is something that separates us from God, "and sets our hearts against Him," how can receiving Christ in the Eucharist (by a baptized, repentant Christian) ever be understood as sin? My heart was completely with Christ as I received him. If sin is something that separates us from God, then isn't not receiving Eucharist at mass a sin?]]

    The short answer is no. Not receiving the Eucharist can be a sin under some circumstances, but those circumstances are not usual ones.

    [[Certainly one can receive in an unworthy matter (1 Cor 11:27-29) I believe that "unworthy manner" refers to the reception of those who would not identify themselves with Christ - receiving him is a lie, and Christians who approach with an unrepentant heart. Does this warning apply to baptized non-Catholic Christians who are repentant of their sins?]]

    I would say that the warning applies to anyone who receives the Eucharist either assuming that he is intrinsically worthy to receive it or without caring that he is not worthy to receive it. In the Divine Liturgy of my own church, one finds the following:

    “Let us be attentive! The holy things are for the holy!”
    “One is holy, One is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.”

    [[How does one atone for the "sin" of receiving Christ? Does the Eucharist belong to the Church or does it belong to Christ?]]

    Like all Divine Mysteries (Sacraments), the Eucharist is an act performed by Christ our God in union with His Church. Because this is so, those who receive the Eucharist–or any other Divine Mystery–should also be in union with both Christ our God and with His Church. In my own church, this requirement for “union before communion” is taken very seriously, and this means that before one can receive the Eucharist, one should first have received Baptism and Chrismation. Anyone who receives the Eucharist while not in union with both Christ and His Church, receives the Eucharist under false pretenses, and to do this would seem to constitute, at the very least, a sin of dishonesty.

    As to how one might atone for this sin of dishonesty, if indeed one has committed such a sin, the best way would be to come into that very union you have pretended, by explaining to the priest/pastor what you have done, receiving instruction, and being baptized and chrismated.

    Regards,
    James Clement, sinner

  7. Joel Walkley says:

    Thanks for your commentary James, I appreciate your interaction with my post.

    The most difficult thing for me as I wrestle with this issue is that I hear two opposing views to the issue. In the documents of Vatican 2, I read that as a Baptized Christian I am necessarily part of the Church, though that communion is imperfect.

    I would say that I am unworthy to receive, for I too am a sinner. But I feel called every time I recite the words at mass: “I am not worthy to receive you Lord, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” It bothers me the most because it seems like I am looking for a word from someone other than Christ.

    As a baptized Christian, how do you view my unity with the Catholic Church? Is my reception still a lie?

  8. Agellius says:

    Unitatis Redintegratio also says this: “Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life-that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ’s Catholic Church, which is “the all-embracing means of salvation,” that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God.”

    I agree that being Protestant is not as simple as choosing to remain outside the Church. Some Protestants believe all Christians are one church, including Catholics. Others that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon and Antichrist, and is dragging its members to hell by her false teaching and idolatry. I realize you are not personally to blame for the disunity among Christians, and that if you become Catholic that disunity will remain. However at least in that case, you yourself will not be personally contributing to the disunity.

    Note that U.R. says that those born into non-Catholic Christian communions are not culpable of the sin involved in the separation. Nevertheless it does call the separation a sin. The reason you are not culpable for it, merely by virtue of being born into a Protestant communion, was because you had no choice where you were born. But now that you have attained adulthood, you do have a choice whether to remain separated or end the separation.

    Vatican II also says this: “Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” [Lumen Gentium 14]

    You ask, “Doesn’t the Catholic Church teach that the sacraments accomplish what they proclaim? That Baptism actually cleanses sins, marriage actually binds. Why can’t the Eucharist actually unite? Why is this the only sacrament that you say is not efficacious.”

    What suprising statements! Who said the Eucharist cannot unite, or that it’s not efficacious? If I believed it were not efficacious, I would not object to passing it out on street corners.

    But OK, suppose the sacraments accomplish what they proclaim. Using your reasoning then, why do we not stand on street corners pouring water on people’s heads as they walk by, reciting the baptismal formula, in order to cleanse their sins? The reason we don’t is that baptism is not valid unless there is present not only the form, but also the intention of accomplishing that which the Church says baptism accomplishes. In other words, a person is not validly baptized unless he intends to be baptized. (In the case of an infant, the intention is supplied by the parents on its behalf.) Administering the sacrament of baptism to those who expressly reject its efficacy, would be a sacrilege.

    The problem with Protestants receiving the Eucharist, in part, is that they do not intend what the Church intends the Eucharist to accomplish. They do not intend unity since they remain separated; they do not recognize the Body and Blood of Christ, since they believe the Eucharist is only symbolic; and they do not intend to participate in the offering of Christ’s Body and Blood to the Father on the Church’s altars.

    Further, since they do not acknowledge the efficacy of the sacraments, they do not receive absolution of any mortal sins they have committed in the sacrament of Confession. Receiving Communion with unabsolved mortal sins on your soul is an extremely grave sacrilege. No Catholic is allowed to receive Communion without having received absolution at least once (before his First Communion). Should we invite Protestants to do that which to ourselves is sacrilegious and incurs condemnation? To do so would be extremely uncharitable.

    Pope John Paul II writes in his encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church”:

    “The celebration of the Eucharist, however, cannot be the starting point for communion; it presupposes that communion already exists, a communion which it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection. The sacrament is an expression of this bond of communion both in its invisible dimension, which, in Christ and through the working of the Holy Spirit, unites us to the Father and among ourselves, and in its visible dimension, which entails communion in the teaching of the apostles, in the sacraments and in the Church’s hierarchical order.”

    You write, “I do believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. However, I believe that unity is found in Christ, not necessarily in the structures of any one church found on Earth.”

    According to the Catholic understanding, you can’t separate unity in Christ from unity with the Catholic Church, since the Church is his Body. Non-Catholic Christians may be united, as you say, imperfectly, with the Church, but to that extent they are also united imperfectly with Christ. Again quoting U.R.: “We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God.”

    You write, ‘”catholic” in the creed does not refer to Roman Catholicism, but rather means “according to the whole.”‘

    At the time the Creed was written, there was but one apostolic Church on earth. Belonging to the Catholic Church could only mean one thing. Those claiming to be Christians but rejecting the one Church were considered heretics.

    You ask, “Is there any way to celebrate this “imperfect unity” which the Church describes?”

    The “unity” part can be celebrated. The “imperfect” part is not to be celebrated but only lamented.

    You ask, “how can we work together to make this unity grow, so that we may recognize and partake of Christ together?”

    Unity can increase only as separation decreases. How to end the separation is a problem, I admit. But it’s not going to end by the Pope becoming a Lutheran, I’m sure of that much.

    By the way, I’m fine holding this discussion in this forum. But if you want, feel free to e-mail me privately. If you click on my name, it will take you to my profile, which contains my e-mail address.

  9. Joel Walkley says:

    Sometimes I notice Protestants and Catholics talking past one another in our view of the church.

    When I spoke of a “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” I meant to assert my own catholicism. I believe that I am catholic, in the sense that I belong to the Body of Christ. I believe that Protestants are catholic (with the “little c”), and it is my understanding that the Roman Catholic Church would agree with that statement.

    Thanks for the clarification of efficaciousy (sp?) of the sacraments. Intent certainly plays a large role in them. But again, let me assert that choosing to remain Protestant is not a denial of my (our) desire for unity. I simply don’t believe that anyone side “swallowing their pride” and submitting to the other will be helpful in the long run.

    Take an analogy of a mother and adult daughter who have a broken relationship. Both parties are to blame, and both said some hurtful things to each other. Is the only path to reconciliation for the daughter to submit to her mother? I would argue that it is not, and some serious work needs to happen, and both need to work equally to heal the wounds.

  10. Agellius says:

    I wanted to comment on a remark you made to someone else. You mentioned the part of the mass that says, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

    This is a translation of the Latin, which is the standard, official version of the mass. In fact the Vatican has recently decided that it’s too loose a translation, and is requiring that it be revised to follow more literally the original. The original Latin of course is taken from the gospel, and says, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof. But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

    My point is, the fact that it says “say the word and I shall be healed,” is not to be taken as an absolution of all your sins and thus an invitation to receive communion regardless of any sins you may have committed. You will recall that in the gospel a centurion had asked Jesus to come and heal his servant. While Jesus was on the way the centurion sent a messenger to say, “you don’t have to come all this way, just say the word and my servant shall be healed.”

    In other words, Christ can heal even if he doesn’t “enter under your roof”. I think that in the context of the mass, most likely this is a prayer for the benefit of those not able to receive Communion, and is asking for the healing that the Lord would have provided had they received Communion.

  11. Agellius says:

    “Healing wounds” sounds nice, but what do you really mean? In concrete terms what do you think needs to happen? Do both sides need to take turns renouncing one of the doctrines that is separating them? “OK, you give up sola scriptura and we’ll give up the infallibility of the pope. Deal?” That kind of thing? Because that’s precisely what cannot happen, since the Catholic Church believes its doctrines were revealed by Christ to the Church through the Apostles, and are therefore unchangeable. We simply do not have the authority to renounce a doctrine that has been revealed by God.

    If doctrinal concessions are not going to happen, what’s left? Apologies and hugs? Which by the way points out the difference between the mother/daughter scenario you propose, and the actual separation of Protestants and Catholics: Even if both sides agreed to swallow their pride and reconcile, we would still need to figure out how it’s possible to live and worship together in unity, when so many of our ideas and doctrines are incompatible.

    In this sense, yes, the wayward daughter would need to submit to the mother, for the simple reason that the Catholic Church is the one Church founded by Christ, possessing the fullness of the truth, and of authority, and of priesthood and sacraments. It cannot be viewed as a spat between equals, because the Protestants expressly rejected doctrines which had been revealed by Christ, not the least of which is the priesthood itself, without which it’s not even possible to have a genuine church.

    In fact, here’s another problem with your mother/daughter analogy: The Protestant/Catholic split was not a matter of Mother Church having a disagreement with some of her daughters, the Protestants. It was more like, the children of Mother Church, both Protestants and Catholics, had a spat between them, and some on both sides bear part of the blame. But the children on the Catholic side stayed with their mother, whereas the Protestant children rejected her, and ran away from the household to live as they pleased.

    I realize this may seem like a self-serving description of the situation. However it’s simply not possible for a Catholic to view it any other way. To do so would be to cease being Catholic.

  12. Jim Taylor says:

    [[As a baptized Christian, how do you view my unity with the Catholic Church? Is my reception still a lie?]]

    I can’t say that it was a lie, or that it was not a lie, because like all men I can judge only by outward appearances; it is God alone who looks at the heart (cf. 1Samuel 16:7).

    Nor can I speak solely as a baptized Christian, since I was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, but received into the Holy Orthodox Church by Chrismation, many years later.

    As an Orthodox Christian, I am not in union with Rome; therefore I cannot receive the Eucharist from the hand of any Roman Catholic priest or bishop, because I know with absolute certainty that, for me and for any other Orthodox Christian, union must precede communion, regardless of how I might feel about this at any particular time and in any specific situation.

    [[I would say that I am unworthy to receive, for I too am a sinner.]]

    This is, of course, the meaning of “Let us be attentive! The holy things are for the holy (Ta agia tis agiis)!”, and the response: “One is holy, One is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father!” Our worthiness to receive comes from Christ our God, not from ourselves, ever.

    [[But I feel called every time I recite the words at mass: "I am not worthy to receive you Lord, but only say the word and I shall be healed." It bothers me the most because it seems like I am looking for a word from someone other than Christ.]]

    Because God does not call us to act wrongfully, I believe He is calling you to meet the requirements set by His Church for all who receive the Eucharist in that Church. As in Byzantium, so in Rome: union *must* precede communion; therefore, if the call you feel is real, it is first of all a call to you to come into union with that church, so that you can *validly* receive the Eucharist administered by that church.

    It is true that valid Christian (i.e. Trinitarian) Baptism makes you a member of Christ’s Church; but it is up to you to “activate” that membership by submitting yourself to the authority of the church which administers the Eucharist you desire to receive. This unity is not a subjective thing. It has little if anything to do with how you *feel*, and everything to do with your honest and completely willing submission to the authority of that church.

    One of our great Orthodox theologians of the 20th century often said that it is easy to see where the Church *is*, but impossible to see where the Church is *not*. When it comes to the Divine Mysteries (Sacraments), they are acts of Christ our God in unity with His Church, and whatever rules and requirements the Church has found it necessary to set in place, those rules and requirements must be obeyed by those who wish to *validly* receive that Divine Mystery. This is all completely objective: you will know when you are in that union which precedes communion when you willingly submit to those rules and requirements.

    For example: in my own church, the Holy Orthodox Church, it is a requirement that one fast for a set time before receiving the Eucharist. If for any reason I have not been able to maintain that fast, it does not matter how much I may desire to receive the Eucharist, or how intensely I may feel our Lord’s call to me to receive the Eucharist: I have not met the minimum that the Church requires of me, so I cannot receive the Eucharist. So when the priest says, “In the fear of God, with faith and love, draw near!”, he is not, that day, speaking those words to me. The invitation is clear and public, but it is not issued to me that day.

    “Why all the regressive, nit-picking juridicalism?” you may well ask me. To one who sees the Eucharist primarily as a symbolic memorial, this makes little if any sense. Why should I let a rule set forth by men long dead prevent me from going forward?

    The answer is that the Eucharist is *not* merely a symbolic memorial. When I receive the Eucharist, the priest says, “The servant of God, James, receives the holy and precious Body and Blood of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins and for life everlasting.”

    This is the reality of what is happening when I receive the Eucharist, and because this is true, I will not presume to set aside the requirements set by the Holy Orthodox Church for me to meet before I can receive the Eucharist.

    Regards,
    James Clement, sinner

  13. Joel Walkley says:

    Agellius,

    I think that “healing wounds” must be something that both Catholics and Protestants define together.

    I would be very strongly against either party rejecting any doctrine. (at this time). I find, in my personal experience, that much of our doctrinal disagreement is based in misunderstandings. The classic example being that some Protestants accuse Catholics of Mary worship. I think you will be hard pressed to find many Protestants readily giving up sola scriptura. (which is an often misunderstood Protestant doctrine, and I would argue not followed in practice)

    But how will those Protestants ever learn that these doctrines aren’t that weird if we are not in dialog with one another?

    It is not fair to say that Protestants left the Church, or continue to remain outside of the Church. It is simply a deeper issue than some personal decision.

    I am advocating open dialog that will foster a desire for unity.

  14. Grace Butler says:

    Joel, you mention that sola scriptura is frequently misunderstood. I thought I understood it, but perhaps I am wrong. Would you please explain the nuance just in case?

  15. Joel says:

    Grace,

    I don’t think I mentioned sola scriptura in this particular post, but Im sure I mentioned it at some point in this blog. I think that topic deserves its own post and Im sure I will tackle it sometime.

    I will try to give a brief “off the cuff” answer here. Remember I speak from a protestant perspective.

    The primary problem I have with sola scriptura is that it is based on a huge presupposition. It seems like the question “why the Bible?” is off limits to sola scriptura Christians. But I believe this is a perfectly valid and important question to ask. We need criteria to recognize God’s word. The Church and the Holy Spirit played a vital role in the formation of canon which is ignored with a sola scriptura view.

    Secondly it is self defeating. sola scriptura is not scriptural! No where in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the sole source of authority. In fact it is quite contrary. Paul says Christians must submit to appointed leaders and defines leadership positions within the church.

    I think sola scriptura was largely reactionary as part of the protestant reformation and went a bit too far in challenging the established (corrupted) leadership within the church at that time.

    I hope that approaches an answer to your question. Be on the look out for me to dive a bit deeper into this question in the next month or so.

Leave a Comment