How can I share communion with my wife?

Written by Joel on July 27th, 2008

The biggest spiritual hindrance to our marriage is that we are not able to share communion at the same table. My wife is Roman Catholic and I am not.

I have approached our pastor and asked to receive and was told that if I want to commune with my wife I would have to become Roman Catholic.

So that means, even though we are united in the sacrament of matrimony and we both have faith in Jesus, we cannot share that faith together at the table – the source and summit of our spiritual lives.

A proposed solution:

I could take some bread from the communion table at my Protestant Church with me to mass. And then my wife could take her communion at Catholic Church back to the pew with her, and then both her and I could communion together.

Or maybe I could just eat the “bread” as she goes forward. As far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, I’m just having a snack. While of course, I do understand the bread to be the essence of Christ and is thus communion for me.

What do you think?
What do you think? Good idea, bad idea, got a better idea? What are some theological implications of this solution? What are the theological implications of a husband and wife who do/can not share the Eucharist?


 

13 Comments so far ↓

  1. Agellius says:

    Joel: You write, ‘Or maybe I could just eat the “bread” as she goes forward. As far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, I’m just having a snack. While of course, I do understand the bread to be the essence of Christ and is thus communion for me.’

    It’s communion “for you”? Does its essence depend on your understanding? So that if you understand it to be such, then it become such? And if you don’t understand that, then it ceases to be such? You have a mighty powerful understanding, that it’s able to call down Christ’s essence into a piece of bread! And later vanquish that presence should your understanding be altered.

    What really confuses me though, is your statement that communion is the source and summit of your spiritual lives. But for you that means communion confected at a protestant service. Does the denomination in which that took place, even believe that communion is the source and summit of its spiritual life? Or is that just a personal conviction of your own?

    From my perspective as a Catholic though, I don’t think you have it quite right. The source and summit of the spiritual life of a Catholic is not communion per se, but the Sacrifice of the Mass, of which communion is only a part. And communion only becomes the body and blood of Christ because of having been confected during the sacrifice. This is the only thing that makes the the sacrifice worthy and acceptable to the Father. And the fact that it has been offered as a worthy and acceptable sacrifice to the Father, is the only thing that makes communion meaningful.

    Think of the parallel with the Passover Lamb, which after being offered in sacrifice was eaten by those who wished to demonstrate their agreement and participation in the sacrifice, and have its benefits applied to themselves. (See 1 Cor. 10:18; 1 Cor. 5:7.)

    For these reasons, a piece of bread over which a protestant minister (who more than likely would consider the idea of offering it as a sacrifice to be absurd), has said “this is my body”, to a Catholic is not communion at all.

  2. Joel says:

    Agellius,

    I believe the elements are the body and blood of Jesus Christ not because they are consecrated in any particular church, but because Christ says so. Also, not dependent on my individual belief.

    This table belongs to Christ, and it is what it is regardless of any group of Christians who misunderstand it. I believe the bread and wine is the body and blood even in churches which misquote scripture and say represent. The Eucharist is Christs and is not dependent on our belief.

    That bread I propose to hold is the body of Christ in so far as I share in his supper with in.

    I believe the Roman Catholic Church is gravely mistaken when it withholds the Eucharist from any repentant baptized Christian. See 1 Cor 11.

    Do you have a better suggestion concerning how my wife and I may share the Eucharist?

  3. Agellius says:

    Joel: You write, “I believe the elements are the body and blood of Jesus Christ not because they are consecrated in any particular church, but because Christ says so. Also, not dependent on my individual belief.”

    What do you mean, Christ says so? He says that any bread and any wine are his body and blood? Or do you have to say or do something before they become those things? What, specifically, do you have to say or do? Can anyone say or do them?

    You write, “This table belongs to Christ…”

    What table are you referring to?

    You write, “I believe the Roman Catholic Church is gravely mistaken when it withholds the Eucharist from any repentant baptized Christian. See 1 Cor 11.”

    I can’t believe you’re still saying this after all my explanations.

    Please, tell me this: Do you, or do you not agree that the mass is a sacrifice?

    If it is a sacrifice, should we let people partake of the sacrifice, who don’t believe it is a sacrifice? Or if they believe it’s a sacrifice, who believe such sacrifice is sacrilege?

    Again I refer you to 1 Cor. 10:18 and 1 Cor. 5:7.

  4. Felicitas says:

    Joel,
    Do you believe that any piece of bread can be/is the Body of Christ as long as the believer wants it to be so?

  5. Joel says:

    Felicitas,

    I do believe that any piece of bread can become the body of Christ, but not because of the belief of the participant, but rather through the power of Christ.

  6. Grace Butler says:

    The Roman Catholic Church prefers simple wheat-and-water unleavened bread, but I agree with you, Joel, that any bread could hypothetically be turned into the Body and Blood of Christ. Furthermore, you are right in saying that it is the power of Christ that does this. What I think Agellius and Felicitas are saying, though, is that the ceremony matters. The sacrament matters. The celebrant matters. Jesus gave the Apostles certain authority unique to them. Through Apostolic succession, this authority was passed from the Apostles to their successors and to their successors’ successors and so today rests in an uninterrupted line on the priests of the Catholic Church. This is a legacy of Christ. I, as an unordained Christian woman, do not have the authority to consecrate the bread and the wine. Nor do you. Thus, you may eat your bread during Mass, but it is just that. Your wife, on the other hand, truly takes Christ within her. What a moment of joy! If in your heart you dearly wish to join her, then do so in the proper manner. Do some more research, go to RCIA. There’s no obligation, and maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for.

  7. Del Sydebothom says:

    It was Jesus who said, “This is my body…this the blood of the New Covenant…”

    Your position is contingent upon a number of factors. Here are a few that come to mind:

    (1) Did Jesus simply declare what the bread and wine had already become, or did the above declaration effect the change?

    (2) When Jesus said, “Do this…”, did he mean that the Apostles would be doing the same thing their Lord did? Viz., did he mean that *their* future words of consecration would have whatever effect was implied by Jesus’ declaration?

    (3) Ignatius of Antioch certainly believed that only the Eucharist celebrated in communion with the bishop was licit. He was either right or wrong. If he was wrong, it would mean either (a) St. John was a bad teacher, (b) St. Ignatius was a bad student (and the corollary–St. John made a dumb decision in making St. Ignatius a bishop), or (c) St. Ignatius was deliberately falsifying the Christian faith (which would imply a bad judgement on St. John’s part as well. We would also wonder why nobody noticed Ignatius’ heresy).

    (4) Jesus’ handing over of his own ministry to the Apostles in John 20:21 must mean something. Likewise, St. Peter’s declaration that he was a “fellow presbyter” in 1st Peter 5:1 implies that something of his ministry was passed on to the various ministers of the Church. It would therefore follow that whatever effect generated by the Apostles’ consecrations of the Sacrament would be paralleled by the effect of their successors’ consecrations.

    Aside from these concerns, there are issues of propriety. Is it proper to “have a snack” in Church? Furthermore, since Protestants and Catholics have theologies which are in many places incompatible, the outward show of communion would be dishonest; it would be saying, “I share the same faith with these people,” when in fact, you don’t. Don’t misunderstand–I am overjoyed to share with Protestants a mutual love and admiration for the Divine Lord. Nevertheless, Catholic dogma declares that he who wilfully fails to submit to the Bishop of Rome separates himself from the Church of Christ (cf. Unam Sanctum). If you do not believe this, then the differences between us run deep enough to forestall any commingling of our worship. Otherwise, we begin to foster in our culture religious indifference, which leads to religious apathy, which hinders the Gospel.

    We ought to speak on these matters, and use our common ground to foster good relations and, hopefully, reintegrate Christendom into a potent, unified force in the world. “Jumping the gun”, and pretending we have more in common than we actually do will hinder, not help this. Pax!

  8. Joel says:

    grace,

    In Roman Catholic theology (as I understand it, and please correct me) the elements of bread and wine completely disappear at the time of consecration and become completely the Body and Blood of Christ. Therefore the elements chosen should not matter, except that the celebration is a participation of the actual event and should be as similar to it as possible. Still, Christ has the power to use whatever gifts we have to offer.

    About apostolicity: The apostolic church is about where we are going, not where we have been. From the Greek apostolic means “sent.” We are the church sent by Christ into the world to spread the Gospel.

    Paul was an apostle but cannot claim apostolic succession because he was not ordained by Peter or any of the apostles who knew Christ. Paul never even met the earthly Christ, and even bumped heads with Peter (the first Pope) on some theological issues. Nevertheless he was sent by Christ. This apostle, outside of apostolic succession (that is through the bishops of Rome) wrote the majority of the New Testament Canon.

    I believe that while my protestant church is not in communion with Rome, it is sent by Christ and therefore has the authority to proclaim his death and resurrection (in Holy Communion) until he comes again.

  9. Matthew says:

    I think it would just be incredibly rude regardless of the theology around it.
    Communion isn’t about you and your wife sharing. It is about your wife and Jesus. Not your wife and you.

  10. Agellius says:

    Joel: Will you not answer my questions?

  11. Joel says:

    Agellius,

    patience brother. I just now got your comment (after working a 13 hour day.)

    Christ says so in the words of institution. He simply said “this is my body…this is my blood.” And we are to celebrate that act today.

    I don’t believe there is a set formula or magic phrase that needs to be said in order for Holy Communion to happen (I suppose thats what makes me protestant).

    And by table I mean any communion table in any Christian church which proclaims the Lord’s death until he comes again.

    I am wrestling with whether anyone can preside at table. (here I mean laity vs. clergy)

    But I will assert that the Eucharist is not based on apostolic succession. As I said previously, apostolic means sent, not a look to the past but a look to the future. If Paul was an apostle (not ordained by Peter or the other 12) then protestant Christians not in communion with Rome can be apostolic too.

    You say:
    “I can’t believe you’re still saying this after all my explanations.”

    Well, quite simply I still disagree with you.

    And regards to the sacrifice. Yes and No. Yes because we participate in the SAME act as the the original Lord’s Supper – almost like a time machine. And no because Christ died once and for all.

    I imagine that the last part might be a bit confusing, and I still don’t have it all hammered out yet, but please keep the questions coming. They are really helpful.

  12. Joel says:

    Matthew,

    Actually, I believe communion is about the people who participate in it.

    Christ did not die for him self, but for us. Communion is very much about us.

  13. Agellius says:

    Joel: You write, “patience brother. I just now got your comment (after working a 13 hour day.)”

    Sorry, but I noticed that you responded to two other people who had posted comments after I posted mine, so it appeared you didn’t intend to respond to mine. I wasn’t saying that’s bad, you can choose not to respond if you want, or you may have forgotten. I was just asking.

    You write, “I don’t believe there is a set formula or magic phrase that needs to be said in order for Holy Communion to happen.”

    If there is nothing specific that has to be done in order for Holy Communion to “happen”, then how do you distinguish Holy Communion from ordinary bread?

    “And by table I mean any communion table in any Christian church which proclaims the Lord’s death until he comes again.”

    OK, then what makes it a “communion table”? Since nothing specific makes bread communion, does anything specific make a table a “communion table”? Is it just any table in a church?

    By “table” Catholics mean, specifically, an altar, in every sense of the word. Do you realize that?

    You write, “And regards to the sacrifice. Yes and No. Yes because we participate in the SAME act as the the original Lord’s Supper – almost like a time machine. And no because Christ died once and for all.”

    I understand that you’re still trying to figure it out, and that you sort of agree and disagree with the Catholic Church. But there are a couple of questions you didn’t answer: I asked, “If it is a sacrifice [as we believe], should we let people partake of the sacrifice, who don’t believe it is a sacrifice? Or if they do believe it’s a sacrifice, believe such sacrifice is sacrilege?”

    Remember, it’s *communion*. This implies that everyone participating in it is *united* — not only in what they believe, but in what they are *doing* when they receive communion.

    You have your own personal understanding of communion. You indicate that you didn’t get it from any Protestant denomination; you certainly didn’t get it from the Catholic Church. It’s on the basis of your personal understanding that you arrive at the conclusion that the Catholic Church is wrong to deny you communion. But what right do you have to superimpose your personal understanding of communion onto the communion that takes place at Catholic altars?

    You and the Catholic Church differ radically as to what communion is. Either your understanding of communion, or the Catholic Church’s understanding, is largely wrong. If yours is right, then you’re not missing out on anything by not receiving communion from the Catholic Church. Just do what you proposed: bring some of your own “communion” to church with you and eat it whenever you choose. On the other hand if your understanding is wrong and the Church’s is right, then bringing your own bread into a Catholic church accomplishes nothing, and receiving Catholic communion is a grave sin and a sacrilege.

    It seems like you are trying to figure out how you can be in union with the Catholic Church without actually joining it. You are united with it through baptism. But now that you’re an adult, your refusal to submit to the authority of the Pope and to assent to its authority and its teachings, are the primary factors that impede fuller union.

    You can’t be truly united with it while at the same time rejecting its core principles. That’s like wanting to become a citizen of the United States while expressing your intention of disregarding its laws and its form of government. Or wanting to become a Protestant Christian while rejecting the Bible.

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