… Reconciliation, Catholicism, or even Baptism.
In the ancient Church, you wouldn’t make it in the door without enduring a lengthy catechumenate. Then, thanks to 1054, reception of the Eucharist was partly a political identification with one’s Patriarch. Then, thanks to the Reformation, lots of Christians just didn’t bother with the Roman notion of Eucharist, for reasons political or otherwise.
Fr James Martin discusses Rick, a blogger and inactive Catholic, returning to Mass and feeling Word-inspired to receive Communion. Fr Martin links the Anchoress, who sidesteps the political association (i.e. Rome) and focuses on the Tridentine/scholastic articulation of BodyBloodSoulDivinity.
Having my own experience of an unbaptized Communion, I’m not entirely convinced the Anchoress is spot on with citing Saint Paul. Paul is urging a self-examination in a particular context, that of the situation of his beloved but exasperating Corinthians. He might find St Blog’s an even more vexing group, but leave that as it is, as we don’t practice Communion in this community. Literally, Paul doesn’t urge brothers and sisters to be keepers of those who seem to have fallen down on the job of Christian. Yet many conservatives, and not a few liberals, make it a tenet of faith.
Don’t get me wrong on this next point. I believe in, practice, and adhere to the collective Catholic experience of seven sacraments (six, really, as one is beyond my state of life). I think/hope I have a developed sense of conscience and practice of the sacrament of Reconciliation. And yet I harbor misgivings about some of the repeatable sacraments being bandied about as prerequisites for others. Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist: that makes sense. Reconciliation and Eucharist: not so much. It is more the state of grace and the encounter with Christ that makes Reconciliation a fruitful prelude for the Eucharist, especially when a believer has been away from the fold for awhile.
Other theologians have pondered the question of Eucharistic participation without adherence to Rome (which seems to be the big Catholic-Orthodox hang-up) or traditional Christian Eucharistic belief (again, not a problem for the Orthodox, or really even many Anglicans or some Protestants) or even Baptism. I don’t really want to go there, though I welcome comments and links from the commentariat.
I’m curious that neither Rick nor Elizabeth have bothered much with the root meaning of “Communion,” a sharing with others. Taking Communion implies, in my thinking, some sort of shared commitment of belief. A politician receives Communion at a church, and I’m not impressed. Not because of 1 Cor 11:27ff, but because I suspect there is no commitment to that church’s mission or involvement in that church’s apostolate.
Likewise, Rick’s Eucharistic experience doesn’t warm me deeply. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy he retains a strong sense of the presence of Christ, and that he hasn’t received a meaningless piece of bread. But Christian sacramental commitment involves a notion of sacrifice. It’s not about a priest offering a cultic sacrifice. Sacramental encounters with Christ involve believers taking up their crosses and following the Lord.
If Rick’s Eucharistic experience leads him to involvement as an active believer in his parish (whatever floats his boat: works of mercy, singing in the choir, assisting with catechesis) and he expands his sacramental experience in a communal setting, and to the full range of sacraments, then I would tend to count his sacramental experience as a grace. Like mine was.
The Catholic experience of the Eucharist is more, much more, than singular moments of Tabor. Or singling out people because they don’t seem to be worthy of Tabor. But what do y’all think?