Monday, May 04, 2020

Holy Communion in a plastic bag?

My latest on LifeSiteNews.

Someone in the Italian bishops’ conference has had the bright idea that people could be given Holy Communion not on the tongue, not in the hand, but in a plastic bag. There may be some logic to what is being called “take-out” communion from perhaps a hygienic point of view, but Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, was quick to point out that it is, well, “insane.”
Cardinal Sarah said, accord to Crux:
It’s absolutely not possible, God deserves respect, you can’t put him in a bag. I don’t know who thought this absurdity, but if it is true that the deprivation of the Eucharist is certainly a suffering, one cannot negotiate how to receive communion. We receive communion in a dignified way, worthy of God who comes to us.
The Italian bishops’ proposal is extreme, but it is a useful test of an idea which is widespread: that ultimately, it just doesn’t matter, or matters very little, how we receive Holy Communion, or how Mass is celebrated (as long as it is valid). Those who share Cardinal Sarah’s instinct are challenged: would you refuse to receive Holy Communion if you could not do so in a way you personally regarded as adequately respectful? Where is your love of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament if you reject Him on the basis of such trivial inconveniences?

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  1. What’s the problem? Granted it’s not as dignified as a fancy pyx, Holy Communion has been distributed by laymen in the past in such crisis situations. My only concern would be its being exposed to satanists, but in principle it seems like a humane idea to make the Eucharist available to the faithful in distress. I would include a little prayer/instruction sheet in the package to help them receive communion devoutly.

    Cardinal Sarah says that ways of distributing communion wouldn’t occur to us if we truly understood what it is. But this can be turned on its head. If we truly understood what the Eucharist is (the supersubstantial bread of God’s people) we’d do everything we could to provide it. The fact that such care is being taken to provide it is a sign of faith that it is greater than a mere symbol.

    1. I've devoted 800 words to explaining why this view is mistaken, so I won't repeat myself.

    2. Laymen receiving holy communion during the liturgy is quite recent, I think. Communion services were often held outside of Mass in the past. Point being that an impressive liturgy is not absolutely required to render one properly disposed to receiving communion. Being properly disposed does not require one to be in a state of contemplative prayer, though that would be the ideal. Rather, as long as one is cognisant of what they're receiving, and has the intention of communicating devoutly, that, I think, suffices. I think any requirement higher than that would be a slippery slope to Jansenist rigorism. Jesus wants to be with us more than we want to be with Him. I wouldn't want liturgical piety and temple extravagance to become a barrier rather than an aid to receiving communion. I appreciate the holy fear with which the blessed sacrament is treated, but I think one of the principal reasons God chooses to give Himself to us as bread is to make us more bold and familiar in approaching Him. I think we abuse the Eucharist as much when we ignore its being bread as when we ignore its being divine: it was made for us, not us for it.