Monday, May 10, 2021

Holy Communion and Holy Consummation – truth or blasphemy?


There has been a lot of talk lately in the Catholic circles about how,  because of Catholic President Joe Biden’s very public stand on pro-choice and gay “marriage” that he should be denied the reception of Holy Communion. This denial of the Sacrament is also called to be extended to Catholic Nancy Pelosi as well, as she has been very vocal and active in the pro-choice movement, supporting abortionist activities and therefore aiding and supporting the killing of innocent lives.  


It has come to the point of the US Catholic Bishops’ intention to come out with a document in June to instruct Catholics when they should and should not receive Holy Communion.  Both Biden and Pelosi are Catholic public figures whose policy views are stridently against those of the Catholic faith.


There is, I believe, an insufficient or even a superficial understanding and appreciation of what Holy Communion is in the Catholic teaching that is on display.  Yes, I would agree that on the one hand, to outsiders of the faith looking on, it can seem to appear that a mountain is being made of a molehill if receiving (or worse, taking) Holy Communion is only about eating a cracker at a gathering of people.  But it is far more than that.  


Holy Communion in the Catholic Church is so sacred and central to us that peoples’ lives have been sacrificed for it to not be abused and desecrated.  Those who understand it and appreciate at its deepest core have been known to be nourished and sustained solely by it and nothing else for prolonged periods of time.  It is so highly exalted that it deserves to be perpetually adored in chapels that are open 24 hours to the public (in pre-COVID times, of course).   At every Mass, the simple and humble things that human hands have made (bread and wine) are trans-substantiated (made beyond its physical substance) into God himself.  And at the point of the reception of Holy Communion when the communicant steps up to either the Sanctuary or Altar rails (when they were still around), the communicant is consuming God himself in the person of Jesus Christ the God-man who is truly present in the Eucharistic bread.  


The Catechism of the Catholic Church has always taught that when one steps up to receive Holy Communion, that one has to be also free from Mortal Sin, and that one has to be a baptized Catholic.  The implication of the latter is a deep one.  It is more than just that the person had undergone the rite of baptism. It means also that the person’s belief is in line with every article of the church’s creedal statements that are in the Nicene and Apostles’ Creed as well.  That is why at every Sunday’s celebration of Mass, one of these creeds is verbally recited as the whole congregation stands to profess it aloud. It is a reminder of what we as Catholic firmly believe as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.


Yes, a well catechized Catholic who has been reading this reflection up to this point would say they understand all this, and it is the non-Catholic who naturally doesn’t understand this that cannot see why anyone not being in line with our creedal statements should be denied Holy Communion.


But is there more to it than this? Is there something more than is not understood at a deeper, maybe even more metaphysical level that is happening at Holy Communion that is making the reception of Holy Communion such a sacrilege when one is not in a state of grace?  I believe there is.  I have only begun to appreciate and intuit this as of late, and was rather overjoyed to have seen my thoughts in printed form by non other than spiritual author and priest Fr Ronald Rolheiser in his latest book, The Fire Within.  


In this small but rich book, he addresses the very hushed and rarely addressed topic of desire, sexuality, longing and where they belong in any God-talk.  In one of the chapters of the book, he writes so articulately and with much tact and elan, what I had only silently appreciated in the later years of my priesthood – that there is a very real similarity between the reception of Holy Communion and the act of marital consummation, or marital sex between a man and a woman.


No, this isn’t anything that is officially taught by the Catechism.  And it shouldn’t be, for many reasons.  Most minds are not ready for this revelation, and are not able to handle it with much maturity.  But when we are able to appreciate just how true this is, it changes the way anyone approaches the reception of Holy Communion.  Rolheiser rightly says that marital sex has so much sacredness in it, and so much power in it, WHEN IT IS RIGHTLY CELEBRATED.  


And how is it rightly celebrated? When it is within its proper context of the vows made by the couple on their day of marriage – when they said publically that all other loves were displaced for the other.  In the act of making marital love, the couple has the potential to experience deep reconciliation, healing and has the possibility to make a new life out of their love.  For the one or two seconds of the zenith of their union, they experience heaven itself. 


And when this is casually treated, when there is little or no sacredness about it. When two people are not in a vowed and consecrated relationship of marriage, there is only an ersatz version of what I just described.  It is not the real thing but a sham one.  There is hardly any consecration that spawns deep gratitude because one has participated in a small way what God is in his fullness.  


Looking around at the way the society treats the sexual act, we see so much desecration that is going on, especially after what is known as the sexual revolution.  It is objectified, treated incredibly casually, it is seen as a right, hardly associated only with marriage between a man and woman, and instead of it being something that is sacred and holy, is now something that is cheapened.  

Now look at the way Holy Communion is received.  Is it received casually?  Is it treated like an object (a cracker?) or are people well-disposed and fully in preparedness for a deep encounter with who should be the love of their lives?  Are people coming to receive the Lord as if it is their right? Are people undressed of their mortal sins for a proper communion to take place? Has there been a deep appreciation of the creedal statements made and their implications before the Communion/Consummation happened?  Is the Communion at Mass really a communion that is Holy?

I look at the whole Biden/Pelosi communion denial issue from this lens.  It is more than just politics, even though at some crude level, it is.  These days, anything can be politicized. But it goes much deeper.  Every reception of Holy Communion is so sacred just as every act of marital consummation ought to be sacred.  In this reflection, I am not sexualizing Holy Communion - that would be outrageous. Rather, I am implying that the marital act can and should be something that is sacred.

Until we appreciate Holy Communion at such a level and give it that kind of elevated reverence, we will continue to see much abuse of not just God, but abuse of the human person as well.




1 comment:

  1. Thanks fr. This is truly an affirmation with regards to my Allocutios that I had given to my Legion of Mary members especially with the marriage (supper) of the Lamb and marriage.

    Marriage and Family are being attacked and this is true.

    I read God is Love (maybe at least 2 times) by then Pope (now Emeritus) Benedict XVI which was his first Encyclical and I am much inspired especially on both 'eros' and 'agape' love. We need to understand this of ourselves that both are total existence created in God's image.