The intimacy of the Holy Eucharist

Scott Hahn shared this on Facebook:

Question: Scott, I’m in a relationship with a girl who joins me at Mass on Saturdays, and we go to her Methodist church on Sundays. She asks why she cannot receive communion at my church, but I can at hers? How do I explain the difference?

Chris, I’m not sure if this will help your friend, but it’s what I found to be useful, in reflecting on my own spiritual journey: I began as an evangelical bible-believing christian, and later became a protestant pastor, until my bible study and prayer led me to find the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church – the family of God the Father, and the Bride of His Son – and so I became a Catholic.

In the process, my view of the Eucharist (what it is and who should receive it) underwent development, in three stages:

1. As a bible-believing evangelical (at a non denominational fellowship), I saw the Lord’s Supper and communion as a profound symbol of God’s love, like a divine embrace or a warm hug.

2. In becoming a presbyterian minister, I came to see it as something even more sacred, like a tender loving kiss from our Lord, which is how most mainline protestants still think (e.g., Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists).

3. Upon discovering the Catholic faith, I came to see how the gift of the Eucharist is more analogous to the intimacy of the marital act, by which Christ, the divine bridegroom, unites Himself to the Church, His beloved bride, for the purpose of consummating and renewing His ‘one-flesh’ covenant as a life-giving mystery with us (Eph 5:31-32).

So for me, in the first two stages, inviting ‘non-members’ to share communion was not a big deal nor an insurmountable problem. However, in the Catholic tradition, where it is seen as comparable to marital intimacy, it is fitting and necessary to make a public act and a personal commitment to identify myself with the Catholic Church, which I profess to be the true bride of Christ. Incidentally, this perspective is reflected in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1617:

“The entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is, so to speak, the nuptial bath, which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist. Christian marriage in its turn becomes an efficacious sign, the sacrament of the covenant of Christ and the Church. Since it signifies and communicates grace, marriage between baptized persons is a true sacrament of the New Covenant.”

In retrospect, I see why non-catholics view our practice as a form of spiritual elitism; whereas for the Church Fathers, it’s simply a matter of covenantal integrity and marital fidelity.

I hope this helps.

 

Of the Good Peaceable Man

Direct your zeal, therefore, first upon yourself; then you may with justice exercise it upon those about you. You are well versed in coloring your own actions with excuses which you will not accept from others, though it would be more just to accuse yourself and excuse your brother. If you wish men to bear with you, you must bear with them. Behold, how far you are from true charity and humility which does not know how to be angry with anyone, or to be indignant save only against self!

…Some people live at peace with themselves and with their fellow men, but others are never at peace with themselves nor do they bring it to anyone else. These latter are a burden to everyone, but they are more of a burden to themselves. A few, finally, live at peace with themselves and try to restore it to others.

Now, all our peace in this miserable life is found in humbly enduring suffering rather than in being free from it. He who knows best how to suffer will enjoy the greater peace, because he is the conqueror of himself, the master of the world, a friend of Christ, and an heir of heaven.

- Thomas a Kempis, II:3

On Self-love

Know that the love of yourself hurts you more than anything else in the world. Everything clings to you more or less according to the love and affection you have for it. If your love be pure, simple and well ordered, you will not be a slave to anything. Do not desire that which you may not have. Guard against having that which may hinder you or deprive you of liberty of spirit.

- Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ, III:27

The prayer of a gentle mother

Look with favor on your people,
O Lord,
that what their observance outwardly declares
it may inwardly bring about.
Through Christ our Lord.

- Friday of the First Week of Lent, Prayer over the people

Interesting isn’t it? The actions first; inward conversion later. Our Church knows our nature. She does not condemn as hypocritical her children’s fasting and pious activities even when their hearts aren’t in the right place. She does not say ‘your works are useless because they are only external.’

Rather, she prays: may their hearts and souls become that which their outward Lenten observances declare. May they be what they ‘play act’ at…

The firmness of the Apostles

is something we Catholics should be so grateful for. Here’s the solemn blessing from today’s Mass of the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul:

 

May God, who has granted you
to stand firm on apostolic foundations,
graciously bless you through the glorious merits
of the holy Apostle Paul.
R. Amen.

And may he who endowed you
with the teaching and example of the Apostles,
make you, under their protection,
witnesses to the truth before all.
R. Amen.

So that through the intercession of the Apostles,
you may inherit the eternal homeland,
for by their teaching you possess firmness of faith.
R. Amen.

And may the blessing of almighty God,
the Father, and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit,
come down on you and remain with you for ever.
R. Amen.

Te Deum

The “Te Deum” that we raise to the Lord this evening, at the end of a calendar year, is a hymn of thanksgiving that opens with the praise – “We praise you, O God, we proclaim you to be the Lord” – and ends with a profession of faith – “You are our hope, we will not be confounded forever.” For all that came to pass over the course of the year, whether easy or difficult, barren or fruitful, we give thanks to God. The Te Deum, in fact, contains a profound wisdom, the wisdom that makes us say that, despite everything, there is good in the world, and this good is destined to triumph, thanks God, the God of Jesus Christ, who became incarnate, died, and rose again. Certainly, it is difficult, sometimes, to accept this profound reality, since evil makes more noise than the good: a brutal murder, the spread of violence, serious injustices make the news. Gestures of love and service, on the contrary, daily struggles endured with patience and fidelity are often left in the shadows. And this is why we cannot rely solely on the news if we want to understand the world and life. We must be able to remain in silence, in meditation, in calm and prolonged reflection; we must know how to stop and think. In this way, our mind can find healing from the inevitable wounds of daily life, can go deeper into the events that occur in our lives and in the world, and come to the knowledge that allows us to evaluate things with new eyes. Especially in the recollection of conscience, where God speaks to us, we learn to look truthfully at our own actions, even at the evil within us and around us, to begin a journey of conversion that makes us wiser and better, more capable of creating solidarity and communion, of overcoming evil with good. The Christian is a man of hope, even and especially in the face of the darkness that often exists in the world, not as a consequence of God’s plans, but because of the wrong choices of man, because the Christian knows that the power of faith can move mountains ( cf. Mt 17:20): the Lord can brighten even the deepest darkness.

- Pope Benedict XVI, Solemn First Vespers for the Feast of Mary the Mother of God Monday, 31 Dec 2012