Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tantum Ergo Sacramentum

The U.S. Catholic Church needs to return to receiving the Eucharist on the tongue.



Otherwise, receiving on the hand allows things like this to happen:

Webster Cook, a University of Central Florida student, took the consecrated Blessed Sacrament out of an Orlando Mass. His motivation is unclear; other sources say he was protesting the use of UCF student fees for religious purposes, while the above article notes Cook's claim to want to show the host to a friend. I'm not convinced of the latter explanation; there are many other ways to enlighten people who are interested in the Eucharist without resorting to sacrilege. Also, I'm not convinced he got death threats; all we have is his word without corroboration. If, of course, he DID get death threats, that ought to be condemned.

But just as wrong is for us Catholics to just sit there and take Cook's action without comment, which implies consent. Cook decides to blunt any criticism by saying that pacifism = Catholicism = consent:

"I was kind of confused because I always thought that Jesus was a pacifist, and they're using violence in order to get back the body of a pacifist," [Cook] told WOFL-TV.
Um, remember that part about driving the moneychangers and merchants out of the Temple? Not to mention the ultimate act of violence in the Crucifixion? Let's stop this "pacifist" canard once and for all.

And now, some publicity-seeking professor in Minnesota is openly soliciting -- and sadly, receiving -- consecrated hosts with the intent of sacrilege. Those who are getting the hosts for him are guilty of the greater sin. The receiving of the Eucharist in the hand makes this all too easy. It's not impossible for there to be abuse with receiving on the tongue, but I'm sure it would be much more rare. (I hope too that we can go back to receiving the Eucharist kneeling, as is now done at Papal Masses.)

I am so not surprised that incidents like this are going on, especially when not even 1/3 of practicing Catholics even believe that they consume the Real Presence of Jesus once the bread and wine are transsubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ. Why should they? Catechesis in the post-Vatican II Catholic Church is almost non-existent, and priests rarely speak about it from the pulpit.

As an example, check out this bit of "We Are Church" drivel from U.S. Catholic, dismissing the Real Presence:
We need to be as passionately convinced of the presence of Christ in those “around the altar” as we are certain of Christ’s presence in the eucharistic elements. Without making this connection, we risk overly objectifying Christ’s presence and overlooking his presence elsewhere—in our neighbors and especially in those who are poor and suffering.
This is exactly the kind of small-minded thinking that has made the Eucharist irrelevant since Vatican II. No wonder why Catholics and non-Catholics alike think the Eucharist is about "sharing a meal" at best, or "getting a cookie" at worst. What is there to keep non-Catholics from receiving the Eucharist, especially when there's just about no difference between what they and Catholics believe the Eucharist is?

O Lord, we're even more unworthy to receive You than I thought.


Tummy said...

Hi Cygnus. I'm a cradle Catholic, but I don't go to the Catholic church and something you touched upon is one of the reasons why, so maybe you can give me a reasonable view on the whys.

You ask as the end "What is there to keep non-Catholics from receiving the Eucharist, especially when there's just about no difference between what they and Catholics believe the Eucharist is?". And now for my question, why don't Catholics want to share the body of Christ, taking it on faith they are Believers.

*one another note - I just found your blog and am enjoying catch up

or maybe I found it "again" but I forget :)

Cygnus said...

Hi, Tummy, and welcome!

You ask a legitimate question, and there's a legitimate answer which you may or may not agree with.

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (an organization I often have disagreements with):

We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ's prayer for us "that they may all be one" (Jn. 17:21).

Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion.

So, it's not so much that the Catholic Church doesn't appreciate unity; rather, the concern is with what the expression of unity means. It's not just "sharing a meal"; it's the core of what we as Catholics believe. And when attending another denomination's services, I don't partake of their communion services because I'm not united with them. I would also never deign to attend, for example, a Jewish service and insist that I be included in their rituals if they were not prescribed for Gentiles.

Finally, I have not partaken of the Eucharist when I have had mortal sin on my soul and have not yet gone to confession for it.

I hope that helps; thanks for asking and dropping by!

Tummy said...

It does help clarify the reasoning. Thanks for answering in a non-defensive way. Usually, I shy away from even questioning.

Seeing as I lived with Rob for 13 years before we got married I haven't partaken during a communion in many years. That's the Catholic coming out in me :)

On another side note: If you happened to watch Big Brother tonight did you cringe? When the Catholic teacher said, and I paraphrase greatly, "I know things are going to happen in the house, but that's ok I'll just do it and then go to confession". I did.

Julia said...

Jews (at least the kind I was raised around) usually encourage anyone with an open mind/heart to participate in our rituals. We're singy, dancy people, and we can certainly appreciate a good festival.

I guarantee, no Reform Jew I know would ever kick a gentile out of a Passover dinner, or a Purim party. Those are meant to be shared, in my opinion.


Dymphna (4HisChurch) said...

Excellent post, Cyg! Communion on the tongue and kneeling would go a long way, I think, towards more reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. That, and some silence prior to Mass would be good too.

Cygnus said...

Julia: I have participated in a few seders before, albeit Christianized versions; in addition, we in University Christian Outreach and in my family would celebrate the "Lord's Day" on Saturday evenings. The covenant community I was part of included a pastor who was a Messianic Jew.

Sadly, however, I haven't had the privilege of attending any Jewish baptisms, weddings, or even funerals. I guess not enough of my best friends are Jews! :-) But I have met some Orthodox Jews at conferences I've been to; I'm always on the lookout during Shabbat to see if anyone needs a hotel room door opened or such.

Dymphna: Right on, esp. with the silence part. I wish I could remember how David Haas tried to deconstruct the need for reverent silence at one of his "workshops" for liturgical ministers.

Cygnus said...

Fr. Z comes on board. (As if.)