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A Welcoming Eucharist

Friday, April 17th, 2009

We were unable to attend our regular church for Good Friday because my wife had to work during their services. I found another local church with an evening Good Friday mass which we went to. It was absolutely beautiful. We decided to continue the Easter Triduum at this new church. So we went to the Vigil and Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday. The sanctuary was already packed so we heading to the “overflow mass” in the social hall. This was monsignor’s first mass since he had had surgery. He preached on the Gospel text, John 20, when Mary and the disciples discover the empty tomb.

He said that Peter is a symbol of authority in this Gospel and The Beloved Disciple is a symbol of love. He recognizes that The Beloved Disciple gets to the tomb before Peter. The main idea of his homily was “love always trumps authority.”

Later, during the Eucharistic prayers, the priest broke from the liturgy and said a word about the church’s Eucharistic practice. I cannot give a perfect quote here, but I will try to remember. He said “I invite everyone here to come forward. If Eucharist is not part of your tradition I encourage you to come forward for a blessing so that we can welcome, accept and bless you.” And then he quoted Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.” We are all one in Christ.

There is more he said, and he said it quite beautifully. Eucharist is part of my tradition (even as a Protestant), and I understood it has an invitation. It was the first time at a Catholic church that I felt welcome and invited to commune. I heard a radical message of Christ’s love and welcoming.

How can I share communion with my wife?

Sunday, 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?

Sinning to Receive Christ

Tuesday, 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?

Mt 9:9-13 and an Invitation

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Sunday’s Gospel reading was form Matthew 9:9-13. It is about Matthew’s call to follow Jesus. Following the call Jesus has a meal with tax collectors as sinners, much to the disapproval of the Pharisees.

Our pastor preached a message of inclusion. He said that Jesus came specifically for sinners; he came to heal. Jesus did not ask for any membership cards in order to share a meal.

But then he started preaching a message I did not expect. He spoke of Jesus’ inclusion at table with sinners and tax collectors. He then turned and pointed to the altar and said that this Eucharistic table is also an open one. He said that it is inclusive, not exclusive. Jesus invites everyone to his table.

I felt a certain conviction to approach the altar. Not only because I believe it is something that I ought to do; but now also because I perceived the homily as a direct invitation. And so I received.

I still felt a bit awkward; that it was “sneaky.” It certainly was not guilt, but rather a social stigma. I was torn. To follow my conscience and participate because I believe Christ commanded this of all of his followers, and now the priest suggesting an open table. At the same time I know the institutional structures of the Roman Catholic Church forbid Eucharistic sharing.

The priest is aware that I am a Protestant Christian, and I was in the line next to his at the Eucharist. Following mass I did not feel any animosity from him. He asked how I was doing in school, and our anniversary plans. He didn’t draw me aside and tell me I was wrong. One cannot preach an inclusive sermon, without willing to accept the consequences that radical inclusion entails.

The message was not quite as explicit as I would have liked, but the message was clear. Still, I wonder why I feel the need to “get permission” to receive from anyone other than Christ?

The Physical and Spiritual Aspects of the Eucharist

Monday, May 19th, 2008

I notice in the Roman Catholic Church the heavy focus on the physical (material) part of the Eucharist; that it really becomes Christ’s physical body and blood. I have wondered if there is any spiritual aspect to the Eucharist as well; that it hosts the spirit of Christ.

There is more to Christ than just his physical body. Humans are made up of both body and spirit. Jesus, being born a man, also has a body and a spirit.

I believe that when we consume the Eucharist there is more to it that putting Christ’s body and blood into our mouths and down to our stomachs. We not only consume Christ physically, but we also consume him spiritually.

Consuming the bread and wine is a physical act, but consuming the spirit entails much more. It is a putting on of Christ. One’s spirit must be open to receiving him.

Is it possible to consume the bread and wine and yet fail to consume the spirit of Christ? If this happens does one receive the Eucharist at all?

Is it possible to receive Christ’s spirit at the Eucharist, without receiving the physical elements?

Which aspect should we focus on?