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.