The other week I was at a funeral celebrated in the New Rite and something happened that I found deeply disturbing.
The church was packed and when it was time for us faithful to receive Holy Communion, I found myself stuck in a long queue to receive from a Eucharistic Minister. Usually when this happens, I find a way out, even if I have to walk right around the back of the church, to get to the priest.
But on this particular day, I simply could not get to the priest. I was stuck and I was horrified.
It was terrible and awkward, receiving Our Blessed Lord this way. The Eucharistic Minister seemed uncomfortable administering Holy Communion on the tongue. For such a precious moment as this, it was extremely unpleasant. Maybe I should have genuflected and not received. But I did receive and I felt very strange returning to my pew.
And what is more, I felt some sort of disconnection, or estrangement from the incredible mystery that had just occurred upon the altar – the Sacrifice of the Cross, in its unbloody manner.
It is difficult to describe. The best I can say is whilst I had received Our Lord in His Blessed Sacrament, I had not received from Him. And this has consequences.
For I had not received from the anointed hands of the priest, who acts in ‘Persona Christi’. In other words, through the Sacrament of Ordination, Christ acts through His priests. It is them and only them through whom He can mediate in this way.
The Catechism states:
It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).Catechism of the Catholic Church 1548
For, “the sacrament of Holy Orders communicates a ‘sacred power’ which is none other than that of Christ” (CCC 1551 – Italics mine).
So, when we receive Holy Communion from Eucharistic Ministers, Christ is not able to mediate Himself through them in the same way. Thus, something is broken in the profound connection between His unbloody sacrifice upon the altar and His feeding of His sheep.
Whilst I know these things in my mind, I have never experienced it acutely like this before. But on this particular occasion, it was visceral. It was as though I had received Holy Communion ‘out of context’ and something was thus broken. The special and intimate connection between the Holy Sacrifice upon the altar and myself had been severed.
As horrible as it was, this experience helped me to see the profound reality of the priest as ‘Persona Christi’, whereby the priest truly acts in the place of Christ, as Jesus Christ mediates through him. Through receiving the Sacrament of Ordination, the priest has been indelibly marked for this very purpose, to continue the mystery of redemption in the world, through the Sacraments of Holy Church.
Thus, throughout Holy Mass, from the moment the priest leaves the sacristy until his returning to it, he acts in Persona Christi. It is therefore imperative that we recognise this reality, which naturally illumines the importance that he, the priest, distributes Holy Communion.
For Our Lord, present through the priest places His very own Body and Blood upon our tongues. He feeds us, directly from the priest’s hands, which, having been specially anointed with the Holy Chrism during the ordination ceremony, act as His hands.
When we receive Holy Communion it is such a tender moment. A moment where Our Lord Jesus Christ, present in His Blessed Sacrament, feeds us with Himself. This is no ordinary food. Thus, it should not be received in an ordinary way. And to do so helps to destroy the profound mystery of all He has given us – His very own Body and Blood; His very life.
I sometimes think, if we were literally to see Our Lord before us, distributing Holy Communion, would we not fall to our knees, rather than remain standing? And would we not open our mouths rather than put out our hands?
Foreword for Monarchy by Roger Buck
Buying Books at Amazon Through These Links Gives Us a Commission. This Supports Our Apostolate. Thank You if You Can Help Like This!