Thursday, September 03, 2009

Communion: is there a difference?

Question: Father, is it wrong to prefer to receive communion from the diocesan Bishop rather than an ordinary priest?

Someone asked me this recently. Obviously we do not receive more of the Body of Christ by receiving from a bishop, we receive Jesus Christ, whole and entire: body, soul, humanity and divinity whenever we receive Holy Communion.

The First Communion of a child or the Communion of a repentant sinner after many years away from the sacraments is likely to be more significant than a persons 396th Communion, the Church has always understood this. Likewise Easter Communion is supposed to be preceded by Lenten penance and the reception of the Sacrament of Penance, Easte Communion is supposed to be the Communion of whole Church. The reception of Holy Communion however is about even more than receiving Christ.

The reception of Communion from the Pope signifies a very real Communion with the Universal Church. The Pope giving Communion to the disident SSPX bishops would imply Communion in a more significant sense with the Mystical Body, something above and beyond what these bishops would receive in their own daily Mass.

The old practice of kissing the bishop's ring before, and the case of a cleric offering the Sign of Peace after, receiving Holy Communion from his hands ritually expresses the acceptance of his authority and one's submission to the Church. Are we here talking merely about sacramental fruitfullness or are we dealing with Sacramental Grace?

So the next question: is there a difference in reception of Holy Communion from a priest and an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion? Is there something lacking in Communion distributed by someone who is not ordained?
Is it a matter of the reception of Holy Communion being also about being in Communion with the minister who distributes it, does an Extrardinary Minister of Holy Communion
undermine this expression of Communion?


Augustine said...

Correct me if I'm wrong Father, but I thought that properly speaking the Bishop presides over all Masses in his diocese; so isn't all communion "from the bishop" even if one doesn't receive it physically from his own hands?

Anonymous said...

"The reception of Holy Communion however is about even more than receiving Christ."

Father, I tend to disagree, although the point is probably in terminology. Nothing in this world is "more" than receiving Christ. Any communion signifies the Communion of the Universal Church. I do noit think it is possible to speak of "more" or "less" "significant" Communion. If the Church recognises Communion as real in certain dissident groups, it does imply a degree of unity. I do not think receiving Communion from the Pope is something "above and beyond" any other Communion, although it certainly expresses authority and submission to the Church.

"Is there something lacking in Communion distributed by someone who is not ordained?" In my opinion, on the part of the recipient, NO. But something is really lacking, but on the part of the extraordinary server. An analogy: imagine someone has to be decorated with the Victoria Cross, but unable to be there for some reason and you are to receive this order on his/her behalf.

Matthew Hewitt said...

Personally, I always receive Communion on the tongue, and only from the Priest. This is partly because assuming one receives on the tongue to reduce the risk of contamination, it doesn't seem logical to me to allow the host to be touched by an un-consecrated hand. I have only once been in a position where I had to receive from an EM, and on that occasion opted to receive in the hand - it is normally possible to be in the appropriate line even at an unfamiliar church so that you can receive from the priest, which I do find far preferable.

Additionally, my wife acts as an Extraordinary Minister at our Parish, and people receiving in the tongue are a bit of a bugbear of hers when she is distributing the host, but that is mainly because people don't seem to be very good at ensuring they make it easy for the person distributing to put it on the tongue, and she is worried that it will fall off.

Incidentally, there does feel to me to be a difference in receiving communion from a Bishop, rather than a Priest who is not a Bishop, and if I am at Mass celebrated by a Bishop, I do try to receive from the Bishop. Not really sure why...

gemoftheocean said...

No. No difference. But it undercuts the message if you let some proabort do the job.

Hestor said...

The Pope giving Communion to the disident SSPX bishops would imply Communion in a more significant sense with the Mystical Body...

Perhaps a situation that may not be too far off in the future. Afterall, if Brother Roger from Taize could recieve Holy Communion from the then Cardinal Ratzinger, what is there to stop Bishop Fellay?

Jacobi said...

The essential question for me is, is it appropriate to receive Communion from an EMHC. John Paul 11 said clearly in 1980 that the handling of the Sacred Elements remains "a privelege of the ordained". Consequently, since my hands are not anointed I receive the Host in the mouth and consequently, I do not receive it from one whose hands are not anointed, such as the average EMHC - the exception being always, "in extremis".

Peter said...

The Communion is the same regardless of who distributes it but I prefer to get it from a Priest than from the Extraordinary minister.
If my young daughter comes up for a blessing (as do other children so I would not wish her to be left out even if the practice is not good) I direct her to the priest or failing that the deacon. It seems important to let her know that their ordination is important.

Christina said...

Father Ray, I would never, ever receive Holy Communion from anyone other than a priest, and see no need for extraordinary ministers. I know that it is still the Body of Christ, but I feel very strongly that only the priest should handle something so precious

gemoftheocean said...

Christina, why are you touching the Host with your spit, if you feel that way?

Maybe you should just sit and adore.

Anonymous said...

Errr, umm, is it not the rule that the Sacrament of Penance is only necessary for those in a state of serious sin during Eastertide.


Antonio said...

No. No difference. But it undercuts the message if you let some proabort do the job.

You've used this straw argument quite a few times and it frankly doesn't hold water. There is a reason why the priest's hands are anointed at the ordination rites and back in the bad old days, that you so loath, they were regarded as relics themselves because they touched the body and blood of Christ. Hence, why there was the reverential kisses in the mass and why it was a pious custom to kiss the priest's hand on greeting him.

Dominic in Amman said...

I don't see the point of using extraordinary ministers, except under extraordinary circumstances e.g. a Papal Mass where thousands are present. Is it to speed things up? If we are receiving Christ, is it too much to wait for a further few minutes before receiving from the hands of the priest?
Moments of silence, waiting patiently and thoughtfully in prayer emphasise what is a and should feel like a sacred experience- it shouldn't be like McDonald's.

pelerin said...

Dominic of Amman suggests that Papal Masses might be occasions where EMHCs might be used through necessity.

I have only been to three Masses celebrated by a Pope but as they were all very much special occasions attended by many hundreds of Priests there was no need for EMHCs.

Would there ever be Papal Masses with thousands in attendance without hundreds of priests also there?

Regarding the time taken for distribution of Holy Communion I too would welcome more time for thanksgiving especially in churches
where it is over so quickly due to the number of EHMCs being used.