As you know, over the last month or two, we have only been having Holy Communion under one species for the faithful. This was because it was flu season and not only were plenty of people sick, including me, but we have quite a few very elderly and vulnerable people in our parishes. This week we will go back to having Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion in order to allow for those who are disposed to receive the Precious Blood from the chalices.
Since we started having Holy Communion under only one kind, I have noticed the devotion in the parishes towards Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It is good that people desire Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and indeed many have expressed this desire to me, requesting that the chalice be available to the faithful. However, troubling to me has been that every single one of these requests have been brought to me requesting explicitly to “serve the wine” at Mass. Also from some there has been an expression of a feeling of incompleteness in only receiving the Body of Christ. There are three main reasons this troubles me:
1. After the consecration, there is no wine (nor bread), there is a complete change of the substance to become the Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord. This is called Transubstantiation - the change of substance even though the “accidents” which we experience do not change (it still tastes like what it was before the change). The words we use shape how we think. It is damaging to our individual faith to call the Eucharist ‘bread’ or ‘wine.’ It very important to speak precisely and remember that it is not wine, it is the Precious Blood of Christ.
2. We receive the complete Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus in every particle, every drop, of the Holy Eucharist. Nothing is lacking. Receiving the Eucharist Body of Christ includes His Precious Blood. Receiving the Precious Blood includes His Body.
3. The lack of awareness of the importance of reverence for the Eucharist in our parishes. It seems that very few people are aware of the ways called for by the Church we are to reverence Our Lord, namely, by genuflecting to the Eucharist when entering, leaving, or crossing the Church, by maintaining a reverent silence in the Church where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, by bowing (the head) when coming to receive Holy Communion (each time) or if passing by the Precious Blood. We seem to have a desire for the Eucharist, but not the proper respect for it.
I am in no way saying that folks in our parishes are maliciously bad or are trying to desecrate the Eucharist. Far from it! I see clearly that everyone in our parishes wants Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - I rejoice in that! But clearly, we need to have a concentrated time where we are examining what we believe and what we do. It is hard work to bring those into line with each other and then keep them there. It requires a regular examination of what we believe and how we act.
Since, as I mentioned last week, the Second Vatican Council clearly and loudly proclaimed that the Eucharist is the Center and Source of our faith, this issue is of utmost importance. Therefore, starting this week, we will be having homilies and these articles concerning the Eucharist from many different angles. I have already begun reading church documents and having conversations with other priests and theologians about it. I know it will be a time of exploration and learning for me, and I pray that for all of us it will be a time of great growth in understanding and devotion to our Eucharistic Lord.