In Persona Christi

Persona Christi
Through the Sacrament of Ordination, Christ acts through His Priests.

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.

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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?

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4 responses to “In Persona Christi”

  1. Jim Fern Avatar
    Jim Fern

    Hi –briefly I am a traditional Catholic, but because of distance attend the ordinary form of the Mass. I have since become an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and more.
    I used to feel the same as you, but I would suggest you might be putting our Lord in a box, and avoiding His desire to anoint his few disciples to help with the distribution of communion. Much in the same way Christ had the Apostles distribute the loaves of bread and fishes twice for the thousands. The Apostles at that moment were not in persona Christi, but yet acting with and for Christ as per Christ’s desire. The priest interviews all the EMHC to see that they are fit Catholics in order to properly handle Christ.
    Think of the ministers as part of the hand of Christ, which we all are as one body, and focus on the priest while receiving from a minster knowing that His hand at that moment is working through the minister.
    I would love nothing more than to go back to the priest only, and the kneeling in reverence during receiving on the tongue, but if Christ chooses us to help in and with communion, who are we to be scrupulous about this commission?
    Peace in Christ

  2. visit this page Avatar

    My point is that the realities merit further thought than basically composing the Vatican off – as if it were simply control crazed. What’s more, that was that. Unfortunately, I presume this is the thing that Mich earnestly accepts – as complete a great many other genuine, mindful Catholics who have not infiltrated the monstrous sympathy of a man like Bl. John Paul II. Go here

  3. Crislee Moreno Avatar
    Crislee Moreno

    I’m the opposite of Jim who commented Dec 2017. I used to attend the Ordinary Form of the Mass and was also an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, however I was in a more traditional parish and one receiving on the tongue was not unusual at all. But since moving to a new state and finding no actual traditional parishes, I have begun attending the Extraordinary Form Mass. And whenever I’m not in that Mass I feel the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion have no clue what to do with someone receiving on their knees and on their tongue. This is a problem with those that train them. Christ is physically present regardless of who administers his body or blood. I do not receive the blood so I have had no issues with that. However, most priests/deacons need to do a better job at training EMofHC. It’s frustrating. However, we still have too many priests who don’t even know it was never done away with or that in the hand was started in error and that we simply have an indult to receive in that manner is what…5 or so countries. It’s sad but sometimes we have to be the educators. And even that doesn’t go over very well much of the time.
    Pax Christi

  4. Stadler Avatar

    EMofHC by definition are extraordinary/out of the ordinary meaning not regular/frequent. Unless both the Priest and the Deacon(if there is one) have no arms or broken arms or any severe injury preventing them from distributing Eucharist, I cannot see any function or reason why these EMofHC have rosters and are distributing Holy Communion EVERY WEEK! The Priests have become lazy and want to speed up The Liturgy. Furthermore I have yet to see EMofHC properly wash there hands before they distribute. Knowing what I know now I will never accept The Eucharist from EMofHC unless EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES exist.