I have been musing for quite some time about how one would overcome the growing tendency to see the Holy Eucharist as a symbol of belonging, a token of inclusion rather than the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The other idea that has taken hold is that the Eucharist is “medicine for the journey,” an aid to the imperfect, and thus should be given even to those in objective states of mortal sin because gradualism and conscience and so on.
So, I thought, hey, maybe the next pope could impose a Eucharistic moratorium, so that while people would still be required to go to Sunday Mass on pain of mortal sin, they would not come to expect to automatically receive. Only something as radical as that would break the token of belonging and inclusion idea, where everybody, no matter what their state in life and how unrepentant they are, expects to receive the Blessed Sacrament. Then maybe only those who had received a ticket indicating they had received absolution in Confession could go forward to the altar rail. And the tickets would change color and shape randomly so they could not be counterfeited easily.
Thus, when I came across this old post of Fr. Ray Blake’s I realized he has nailed what it is that has been bothering me. This is an oldie but goodie that thankfully someone shared today on social media. Enjoy this and ponder. An excerpt:
The Second Vatican Council spoke about a ‘universal call to holiness’, what we seem to have difficulty with is coping with the fact that not everyone wants ‘holiness’, or at least wants to delay it until the last moment, or simply feels they are incapable of it. Now I wonder if we have lost that flexibility. Ronald Knox’s remark about the possibility of leaving an umbrella safely in any church, of any denomination, except a Catholic church, because in a Catholic church it was bound to be stolen, because Catholic churches are full of sinners, once contained a lot of truth. I remember certain London churches and certain continental churches that seemed to be full of ladies of certain character and men of certain ‘exotic’ tendencies, all at the back or behind pillars or in side chapels praying with intensity, and slightly more reflectively ‘pray for us sinners, now and the hour of death’.
The older idea, still prevalent in Orthodoxy and certain declining branches of Protestantism, and amongst more ultra Traditionalists, that people should receive Communion only rarely, and then only after confession and a period of intensified fasting and penance, was the norm up until Pius X. In pre-Reformation England the norm was for Communion once a year, following Lateran IV’s precept of reception at ‘Easter or there abouts’. The confession, penance, prayer and rigorous fasting of Lent was the period of preparation. Lateran IV was trying to correct the ‘abuse’ of people never receiving Holy Communion, or doings so only once in their lives.Though Vatican II was theologically right, was it pastorally right? What seems to have happened was that we became less tolerant of sinners. I have always wondered about the interpretation of I Cor 11:27-32:
27Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. 28But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. 29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. 30Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep. 31But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world.
What does verse 30 actually mean? ‘Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep’, could it be that Paul equates infirmity and weakness -and many sleep, a euphemism for death- as being something we experiencing today, that somehow a unworthy reception of Communion leads not to physical illness and death but to a spiritual one, a complete loss of those who cannot live a holy life.
I fear accommodating VII’s teaching of ‘universal holiness’, we either exclude sinners who are unable to live virtuously, which means excluding those in need of Christ or else we turn a blind eye to sin, pretending it doesn’t exist, which means excluding Christ, as some seemed to desire at the Synod.
And I lift this out from the excerpts above: “In pre-Reformation England the norm was for Communion once a year, following Lateran IV’s precept of reception at ‘Easter or there abouts’.”