June 1, 2024 Column Father De Celles

CORPUS CHRISTI SUNDAY. Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, a feast established largely to promote and affirm the Dogma of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament: It is truly Him, body, blood, soul and divinity. As the Catechism reminds us:

“1376 The Council of Trent summarizes…declaring: ‘Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God….that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.’206

“1381 ‘That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that ‘cannot be apprehended by the senses,’ says St. Thomas, ‘but only by faith, which relies on divine authority.’ For this reason, in a commentary on Luke 22:19 (‘This is my body which is given for you.’), St. Cyril says: ‘Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since he is the truth, he cannot lie.’”

Reverence. Looking back at my past columns and homilies for this Sunday I see that every year I remind you of this teaching and the importance of communicating and reinforcing our faith in this doctrine by increasing our outward signs and attitudes of reverence for this “most august presence.” If this is Jesus, truly present, why don’t we act like it.

Over the last 14 years I have encouraged and promoted what I call “emphatic reverence” toward the Eucharist. The word “reverence” comes from the Latin for “fear,” “revere,” and Scripture tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” But this kind of fear is not like being in terror or afraid, but rather of being in “awe”: recognizing that God is the all-powerful creator and sustainer of the whole world, and I am just a little tiny speck in comparison—and yet, he loves me. So Christian reverence is fundamentally rooted in love.

Today, rather than go through a list of ways to show reverence, I want to focus on only two of them that relate directly to receiving Holy Communion, but two that are so important.

Kneeling and Genuflecting. In the Book of Revelation St. John repeatedly tells us that the angels and saints in heaven “fall down” on their faces and worship when they are in Jesus’ presence in heaven. For example, 7:12And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God…” See also 5:14, 4:10, 11:16 and 19: 4.

It is fundamental that we should kneel before Jesus (a more practical if abbreviated form of “falling on our faces”). So, I strongly recommend that you reflect on how you receive Communion, and whether you should not kneel before Our Lord in doing so. We have this beautiful altar rail now, where you can kneel and take a moment or two before and after receiving Our Lord to talk to Him, to prepare for and thank Him.

Some say we shouldn’t kneel before Jesus, but stand before Him as his brothers and sisters, as “adults.” Nonsense. He is God, we’re not. I’ve also been told that the U.S. Bishops have prescribed that we stand for Communion. But that is incorrect: the norm says we can either stand or kneel.                                                                                                                                                      

Receiving on the Tongue. I’ve written before, receiving Communion on the tongue is an important outward display of faith and shows a greater reverence for Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. As Pope St. Paul VI wrote in 1969, when he grudgingly granted Bishops authority to permit Communion in the hand while at the same time teaching that receiving in the hand as clearly preferable:

“This method of distributing holy communion [on the tongue] must be retained….not merely because it has many centuries of-tradition behind it, but especially because it expresses the faithful’s reverence for the Eucharist. The custom does not detract in any way from the personal dignity of those who approach this great sacrament: it is part of that preparation that is needed for the most fruitful reception of the Body of the Lord.

“This reverence shows that it is not a sharing in “ordinary bread and wine” that is involved, but in the Body and Blood of the Lord, …the Paschal Sacrifice, …the New Covenant …, and ….the eschatological banquet in the kingdom of the Father.”

“Further, the practice [Communion on the tongue] …ensures, more effectively, that holy communion is distributed with the proper respect, decorum and dignity. It removes the danger of profanation of the sacred species….Lastly, it ensures that diligent carefulness about the fragments of consecrated bread which the Church has always recommended: “What you have allowed to drop, think of it as though you had lost one of your own members.”

Some say, “but Father, it’s food, and I eat food with my hands.” But it’s no ordinary food: it is the very Flesh of Jesus, the Bread of Angels, the Heavenly Banquet. So why do we receive it as if it were no more than a hot dog?

Some say, “but Father, its unhygienic to receive on the tongue.” Who says so? While the pseudo-science of the “Covid-era” has tried to convince of this, that position is not founded on any actual science. In fact, there is no study that proves or suggests this, and there are studies and tons of experts (pathologist, infectious disease specialists, etc.) who hold that either there is no difference in hygiene risk between receiving in the hand or tongue or that the tongue is actually more hygienic/safer.

My Strong Recommendation. As your Spiritual Father, who loves you and wants what is best for you, I strongly encourage you to receive Holy Communion both kneeling and on the tongue. It is just better for you spiritually. It is also a teaching sign for those around you, especially our children and guests.

Now, having said this, under current Church law, it is your choice. Especially when it comes to your personal judgment about hygiene. I get it. So I remind everyone: we do not judge or condemn each other for doing what is clearly lawful and moral. There are enough divisions in the Church without this kind of uncharitable behavior. And remember, Satan is the father of division, setting man against God and man against man.

Procession Today. Please join us today shortly after the 1pm Mass for our indoor Eucharistic Procession with prayers, Adoration, and Benediction. And then afterward, spend some time in fellowship at an Ice Cream social in the Parish Hall.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles