What's the big deal about shared communion?

What's the big deal about shared communion? February 22, 2011

Elizabeth Scalia, with an eye on what just happened in California, offers a perfect answer:

Our Communion is much more than a mere family meal. it is a face-to-face, one-on-one, intimate encounter with Christ. This is nothing to engage in lightly. Paul warned us in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 against unworthy reception of the Eucharist and canon 908 is just the expression of this apostolic instruction in canon law. If the Church seems to “stand between” a person and Christ it is only because we each of us have a responsibility to stand between ourselves and the reception of Christ in the Holy Sacrament, if we are not rightly disposed. That means not only that we be free of the stain of grave sin, but that we also bring ourselves to Him in humility.

And part of that humility is to consider one’s beliefs in the light of all of Scripture—including Paul’s admonishments—and the teaching of the Church, including her canon law. If one does not believe what Scripture and the Church say about the Mass, one ought not allow a feel-good pretense to overrule one’s manners.

The Holy Eucharist is the all-or-nothing Source and Summit of our faith. It either is what Jesus said it is, or it is nothing at all. If it is the Flesh and Blood of Christ, truly Present, then common sense says the Holy Eucharist deserves our highest honor, our highest respect, our most complete reverence, and all of the excludes those who don’t believe this from participating.

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6 responses to “What's the big deal about shared communion?”

  1. I have to disagree with Elizabeth on this one. Communion is not just a one-on-one encounter with Christ. It is a communal sacrament of initiation by which we become more fully formed into the body of Christ. “I” don’t receive communion; we receive.
    I have had some success in getting non-Catholics to understand it as other than dismissive attitude towards non-Catholics by explaining that for Catholics, Communion is a sacrament of initiation. To participate when you are not intending to be more fully initiated into the Catholic Church creates a situation where either you have to lie when you say Amen, or the Church has to lie, that she really doesn’t mean it is a sacrament of initiation. So if someone would not consider being baptized into, or confirmed in, the Catholic faith, he or she should not consider receiving the third sacrament of initiation.

  2. A one-on-one encounter with Christ? I respect Elizabeth Scalia, but that is woefully inadequate eucharistic theology!

    No offense but someone with her influence – as we as you with your own, might think about offering a counterbalance to that kind of statement.

    This is not to say that there are no issues with the California situation, but all this hand-wringing and outcry makes Roman Catholics (and I am one) look very little like Christ.

  3. From the earliest years of the Church (that is why the Orthodox are just as strict as Rome on intercommunion) it has been considered sacrilege to take the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily—and worthily includes being in a Communion of Faith with the Church–the Body of Christ.
    The fact some in the Church see receiving Communion as merely a matter of deepening Christian fellowship shows how low our faith in the True Presence has sunk.

  4. About 30 years ago, the Catholic chaplain at Emory University here in Atlanta invited the Methodist chaplain to join him in celebrating the Easter Vigil at the school’s magnificent Cannon Chapel, a worship space at the Candler School of Theology shared by Catholics and Protestants. The service was no secret; it was announced in advance in the Atlanta newspapers as an example of ecumenical progress. The minister sang the Exultet (no deacon being available?), joined in the Eucharistic prayer, and distributed communion alongside the priest.

    The liturgy was beautiful, one of the most moving I can recall, and the public reaction afterwards was subdued–VERY subdued, by comparison with what we have heard about this recent incident. I think perhaps Catholics with relatively fresh memories of Vatican II were more optimistic than they should have been about the churches converging in the near future. Something like the “spirit of Taize” was in the air.

    However, I am sure the archdiocese was not thrilled by this unauthorized effort at common worship, and the experiment was not repeated in the future. I suppose most people who deplore the California intercommunion attempt would be pleased by that, but I personally think real grass-roots ecumenical worship experiences of some kind are going to be necessary if we are ever to end the divisions among Christians. I also suspect that similar ventures in common worship are still taking place among Catholics and Protestants who work together in Christian settings, though probably with far less advance publicity.

  5. I don’t see where Elizabeth says that communion is “just” a one-on-one encounter. I am assuming that you are not saying it is “just” a communal celebration or “just” a sacrament of initiation.

    My first communion was over 40 years ago. There is something more than initiation into the church that is going on.

    I often experience something deeply personal and private at communion and pray privately–especially when the communion song sucks.

  6. I’m with you Rick, and also in full support of Elizabeth, who is without a question a women who loves the Eucharist.

    Dcn. Charlie I also agree with you too, only disagree that I think you might have misunderstood what Elizabeth was trying to say, as Rick pointed out quite well.

    I have both a “personal” and a “communal” experience, each and every time. It would be horrific for me to knowingly receive unworthily, as I would be choosing to bring our Dear Jesus into a house of filth. Consequently, that would also have a great effect on the entire body of Christ. All said, all the more reason the Eucharist is the most awesome gift in the universe; personally and “in communion with the faith.”

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