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Question 

Dear Father, I am writing to you again.

I am sorry, I feel very sorry for writing to you again because I know I am wasting your time while I could just wait for your answer. Unfortunately, I am experiencing a troubled period and I need your opinion. 

I am attending a youth group in the seminary in …. I wrote to you today as soon as I came back from our monthly meeting in which we discussed the Eucharist. This (the blog in which the entire discourse can be read is indicated n.d.r) is an article about what they told us today. The author is Father … who is in charge of our meetings. Actually, I didn’t agree with this argument and I disapproved of it, even if I was reassured by the fact that the father had already talked to the bishop because other people had already criticized it.  

What do you think about it? Is it right to compare Eucharist to sex? Is it right to think about the Eucharist as a symbol, as a photograph, as a button? (..)

What should I do? Father, I need your help. Not even the seminary helps me in understanding the Eucharist. On the contrary, when I come back I feel more angry and hopeless than before. The more I try to care about and to respect Jesus, the more it gets. And that’s because even our tutors tell us to receive Communion without dealing with Confession or with sins. According to them, norms are “moralistic” and Jesus came for “ill” people, not for the “healthy” ones. Everyone answers me in this way and treats me like a paranoiac. Father, help me. You’re my only hope of survival. 

My spiritual guide, who is bonded to the seminary too, believes that I worry too much, that if I commit a sin, God is much wiser than my mistakes (and that’s obvious), that confessing to him once a month is enough to avoid concern. Also, he believes that even if I commit a serious sin, I can receive Communion anyway because I am following a path. Obviously, I didn’t trust him. 

I am very sorry and I wish you a year full of joy in Christ, who is our strength.


Answer  

Dear you,

1.   I am sorry to read such things about the Eucharist as the ones in the article you sent me and I totally understand your disapproval. I am even more sorry because they told such things to some young people and moreover in a seminary. After such a discourse it can only get worse.

2.   Even the introduction to that article sounds almost profane: “Approximately, the Council of Trent can be said to have represented the basis of each Christian discourse about the Eucharist for half a millennium”. If the word that we use means something, the author meant that the Council of Trent has misinterpreted or distorted everything about Eucharist and that piety that followed is just something we have to forget.

3.  But Saint Paul wrote something different when speaking about Eucharist: “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” (1 Cor 11, 23-26).

4.   First of all, as you can see, Saint Paul begins from what he had received. He didn’t want to give us a new interpretation of the Eucharist. He explained it exactly like he had received it. Moreover, he didn’t deal with symbols beyond bread in talking about God’s body. But he reports Jesus’ words: “This is my body”. A Hebrew scholar found out that in Jesus’ words there is no “is” in the Jewish version. So, Jesus identifies that bread with himself. That scholar was no Christian and he certainly didn’t believe in the Christian faith. He just realized Jesus had used those words with that meaning. And in conclusion he stated that according to the Jewish version, the protestant interpretation is unjustified.

5.  Dealing with the article you sent me, they only talk about “symbols”. It is right that sacraments are symbols but they are more, they recall a specific reality and they make it real. In theology you can say “significando causant”, in other words as they mean, they cause. Here the reality that has been made real is Christ’s sacrifice, or God’s death as Saint Paul states. 

6.    God’s death is also introduced by Jesus’ words: “which will be given up for you”. In this case, the sacrifice is the cross. Also, they refer to sacrifice and to Christ’s death in the following words: “This is the cup of my blood (…). It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven”. But in the article there is no trace of it. In “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” Saint John Paul II wrote: “The institution of the Eucharist sacramentally anticipated the events which were about to take place, beginning with the agony in Gethsemane. Once again we see Jesus as he leaves the Upper Room, descends with his disciples to the Kidron valley and goes to the Garden of Olives. Even today that Garden shelters some very ancient olive trees. Perhaps they witnessed what happened beneath their shade that evening, when Christ in prayer was filled with anguish “and his sweat became like drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (cf. Lk 22:44). The blood which shortly before he had given to the Church as the drink of salvation in the sacrament of the Eucharist, began to be shed; its outpouring would then be completed on Golgotha to become the means of our redemption: “Christ… as high priest of the good things to come…, entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb 9:11- 12).” (EE 3).

7.   The author of that article meant that it refers to something different than what has always been referred to. So it is not about saying it in a different way or about saying something against the classic content about the Eucharist, but is about saying something different. Unfortunately they stated something different for real and so they didn’t talk about the Eucharist. And if they wanted to talk about it, it has become meaningless. I feel like I am losing time in rejecting each statement. It is easy to end this discussion rapidly: you only have to think about the arrogance the author uses to deal with the usual faith of the Church, as if this usual faith wasn’t the basis of our faith. Saint Vincent of Lérins, a 5th century father, used to say that one of the criterion of truth in our faith is “what is everywhere, it has always been believed by everyone” (quod ubique, quod ab omnibus, quod a semper creditum est).The Council of Trent hasn’t left those criteria. On the contrary, it has rejected the protestant heresy exactly because of the idea that “what is everywhere, it has always been believed by everyone”. The Council of Trent about the Eucharist has told us something different from what Saint Thomas said, although he belonged to the 13th century. He in turn didn’t tell us something different from Saint Gregory the Great who was born in the 6th century. He in turn didn’t tell us something different from Saint John Chrysostom who was born in the 4th century.

8.   The problem is not about the impossibility to say something different, because it is right and appropriate to do it. But this “difference” has to be conceived as a development and an in-depth analysis of what we have already received and believed. If that “different” means going on and not caring about what we have already believed and experienced, if it means something vague about the most beloved and precious reality we have, then everything becomes worse.

9.  What did you understand from the lesson “How about comparing the Eucharist to sex?”?. It reflects the fact that the person who spoke to you doesn’t care about how their words may be understood. In the article they refer to “an erotic part in the Eucharist that shouldn’t be neglected”. Knowing how they live this erotic part would have been interesting. It would have been necessary to make them explain to those young people how they should live it, since they stated that “it shouldn’t be neglected”. Saying “erotic part” has a specific meaning in our current language.

10. At the same time, saying that stealing a button from a girl who cares about it is like ripping up her heart can be considered as an incorrect comparison which voids the meaning of the Eucharist. It is not just a symbol, but it contains Christ in that symbol or better, it contains Christ who sacrificed his body, his soul, his divinity. Here Christ becomes nourishment for us in order to make us change in Him.

11. It is disappointing reading what you wrote: “even our tutors tell us to receive Communion without dealing with Confession or with sins. According to them, norms are “moralistic” and Jesus came for “ill” people, not for the “healthy” ones”. It is true that Christ came for ill people, but Baptism comes before  Communion. And also what was called “the second Baptism” by the Holy Fathers (the Confession) comes before the Communion. Ill people need to take medicines. Sometimes surgery may be required in order to take off the pain and they will eat just by drips. That’s because ordinary food wouldn’t be good for them, as Saint Paul stated. Therefore if someone is aware of committing serious sins, they always should confess beforehand. Christ asked us to do it when claimed through Paul’s words: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.  A person should examine himself,  and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment  on himself” (1 Cor 11, 27-29). Didache is a treatise written in the second half of the first century and it is even prior to some New Testament books. It deals with how Christian communities had understood this suggestion: “In the meeting you will confess your sins and never begin your prayer in a bad conscience. This is the way of life.” (Didache 4, 14); “On the day of the Lord, gathered together, break the bread and give thanks after confessing your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure.” (Didache 14, 1).

12. That’s why Saint John Paul II stated that “in the Church there remains in force, now and in the future, the rule by which the Council of Trent gave concrete expression to the Apostle Paul’s stern warning when it affirmed that, in order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, <<one must first confess one’s sins, when one is aware of mortal sin>>” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 36). The reason is that the integrity of invisible limits (which means being in a state of grace) is a specific moral duty for a Christian who wants to truly participate in the Eucharist dealing with Christ’s blood and body. Even the Apostle recommends it : “A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup” (1 Cor 11, 28). “Saint John Chrysostom, with his stirring eloquence, exhorted the faithful: <<I too raise my voice, I beseech, beg and implore that no one draw near to this sacred table with a sullied and corrupt conscience. Such an act, in fact, can never be called ‘communion’, not even were we to touch the Lord’s body a thousand times over, but ‘condemnation’, ‘torment’ and ‘increase of punishment’>>” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 36).

13. When dealing with such statements, trust in God, in Saint John Chrysostom, in Saint John Paul II and in the Church discipline more than in your tutors. I truly hope you misunderstood their words. As Saint Paul said to Timothy: “I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you” (2 Tm 1,5). So I suggest you keep living according to the faith you received, your grandmother’s faith, your mother’s faith, the faith of the saints who lived in your country. 

I wish you all the best, I remember you to the Lord and I bless you.  

Padre Angelo 


Translated by Giulia Leo