Holy Things In Holiness

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‘ For they will be made holy who observe  holy things in holiness’ (Wis.6:10).

In the Lord’s prayer our  petition is to give us  our daily bread.  Bread is important indeed. But  can we live by bread alone? My answer  is that man does live by bread and bread alone. But it is not the kind of  bread  for which we yearn every day. It is the supernatural  food that  our loving Father in his benevolence and  providence gives us every day.  We just remind him whenever we say the Lord’s prayer, that we be given our daily bread.  

The teachings about the  true bread  that gives life to  us was  the one grossly misunderstood and  misinterpreted. It had to be so, because it was  a totally strange thing when somebody exhorted his disciples to  eat his  flesh and  drink his blood as their spiritual  nourishment. Imagine yourselves in the place of  those Jews who doubted about how it would be possible for  a man to give his  flesh as  food for others. Their doubts were genuine, because they had never heard of anybody offering  their own flesh as food for others, that too  while still being alive.

‘The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn. 6:52). Jesus didn’t give a direct answer to their ‘how’ question. Instead he went a step further and  declared   that   unless we  eat the  flesh of the Son of  Man and drink his blood, we  will have no life in us. 

Jesus was categorical in  his teaching about the  Holy Eucharist. ‘Those who eat my flesh and  drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day, for my flesh is true food and  my blood is true drink’ (Jn 6:54-55). He draws a  distant parallel with manna, the  bread their  ancestors ate in the  desert. It was  also bread  sent  from heaven.  But the    difference was that  those who ate it died in due course. Jesus was saying that the manna was  just a shade of the true bread coming to the world.  “This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and  they died. But the one who eats this  bread will live forever” (Jn 6:58).

So, it is clear that there are two kinds of bread that men seek. Both are   given from heaven. Both are for our nourishment. One is temporal and useful to feed the  flesh. Its utility ends where the  flesh ends; at the moment of death. The other one is spiritual and it is useful for the nourishment of the soul as well. Its utility transcends the flesh and  transcends the   moment of  death too. It is the  flesh of  Lord Jesus Christ that is given to us   in Holy Eucharist.

When we say the Lord’s prayer, which bread are we beseeching from  heaven, the temporal one or the spiritual one?

As far as our temporal necessities are concerned, Jesus  was very clear in his teaching. ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Mt 4:4). Read carefully.  Jesus never said that  we  do not need  bread. We need it, but it is not sufficient. We need the  word that comes from the  mouth of  God as well.

What is  this word coming from the mouth of  God? John explains: ‘In the beginning was  the Word, and the Word was  with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things  came into being through him, and without him not one thing  came into being’ (Jn 1:1-3). Then what happened to  this Word? ‘And the Word became flesh and  lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the  glory  as of a father’s only son, full of  grace and truth’ (Jn 1:14). If everything was  created by the Word and if the same Word became  flesh  to live among us, it is perfectly logical to  conclude that we need this  Word Incarnate to  enter eternal life.

Are  we  more concerned   about this heavenly bread than what we  eat every day to sustain our earthly life? This temporal  food is necessary  as long as  we are in this  world. But Jesus  has told us not to worry about it. It will come anyway.  “And do not  keep striving for what  you are to eat and what you are to drink, and  do not keep worrying. For it is the  nations of the world that strive  after all these things, and your Father knows you need them. Instead  strive for His kingdom, and these things  will be given to you as well’ (Lk 12:29-31). So, do not worry; our temporal food is guaranteed, provided we strive for the kingdom of God.

Today  our topic is the respect this bread of  life demands from us. Do we  really give the Holy Eucharist the respect it deserves? Think for a moment. We know that the bread and wine  becomes the true body and true blood of  Jesus Christ through the process of transubstantiation during consecration.  Catholic Church teaches that  even a  minuscule part of the  Eucharistic species  contains in it  the  fullness of Jesus.  This is the reason the Church teaches us to  give utmost respect to the Blessed Sacrament.  Before eating the  body of Jesus Christ  and  drinking from the  chalice of  his blood, we should introspect and  make sure that  we are worthy to  receive them.  It is something serious enough for  Paul to warn the Cornithians: ‘Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy  manner will be answerable  for the  body and  blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body eat and drink  judgements against themselves. For this reason many of  you are  weak and ill, and  some have died’ (1 Cor. 11:27-30).

Disrespect   to the Blessed Sacrament  is  manifested  in receiving it  in an unworthy manner. We should introspect and examine our conscience, before approaching this  sublime Sacrament.  If you  find, during the course of this examination, that you have  committed any  mortal sins, please, please do not  receive the  body and blood of  your Saviour. The Church  warns us; ‘Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance (CCC 1415). 

Never be  fooled by the  false teachings that  receiving  this  precious gift irrespective of whether you are in a state of grace or not  will help you. By   receiving the Eucharist you are  showing your love and respect  to  Jesus Christ. But  when you receive it  in an unworthy manner, you are  showing  total disrespect  to your Lord who  endured his passion for you. Do not  forget that the  Holy Eucharist  is the result of  his  sufferings for you and me.

Are we aware of the  necessity to observe  the Eucharistic fast? Earlier,  communion fast involved abstention from all food and drink, including water, from midnight prior to the reception of Communion. This stipulation  was   first diluted in 1905 and then  the period of fast was reduced to  three hours. It was a time   when the Church started exhorting the laity to  receive  the Blessed Sacrament every day, which made  fasting from midnight  impractical. Further relaxations followed and the duration of fast  was   reduced to one hour which is the  current norm.  We should use this one hour of fast to detach  our thoughts from this world in anticipation of the  spiritual food that   we  eagerly await.

How do we receive the Eucharist? Is it on your tongue or in your hand? The time tested method, supported by  the  teachings of  many  Church Fathers and theologians, is that  the  Eucharist should be received on the tongue. Often reference is made to the practice  prevalent not so long ago of   receiving the  communion   kneeling as a mark of deep respect  for the  holiest of mysteries.  There is no doubt that  receiving the   Communion in this  way is the best  practice. In fact this was the only  method permitted in the Church.  However, of late there is a tendency on the part of  certain priests – their number is not  negligible- to  insist on giving the Eucharist in hands only, thereby putting the  faithful in a dilemma..

We do not intend to  pass any judgement  about the  novel practice of  giving Communion in hand, but at the same time consider it our   duty to   shed light on   its consequences. Distancing   the faithful from Eucharist and denying the  body  and blood of  Jesus  Christ, the respect they deserve  were one of the  important  goals of freemasons. We are living at  a time  when the masonic influence  in the Church is becoming more and more obvious.  We should be alarmed to see the  disrespect shown to   the Blessed Sacrament, especially  by our  younger generation, for whom Eucharist  is like  another loaf of bread. Before blaming them, we  should  understand that  they were brought up in an environment  where Communion was  given in hand. It is pathetic to  observe that the vision of the supernatural  associated with Holy Eucharist is losing gradually, and  one of the reasons, we feel, is the introduction of  the practice of  giving communion in hand. 

Covid- 19  has aggravated the situation. Many priests simply  refuse  to give  communion on the   tongue citing safety and hygienic reasons.  At places where  the priest is  ready, it is the parishioners who  insist on  getting the Communion in hand. In many churches, the place  where holy water used to be kept  has now turned into  a repository of sanitizer bottles. Often we see   some  priests washing their  hands with sanitizer, a major component of which is   alcohol, before  commencing the  Holy Mass. May be for  ensuring the  safety of the   faithful. But what is the purpose of him   again soaking  his  hands in this alcoholic concoction just before  distributing the communion? 

Let me ask you a straight question. Do you  believe that the  consecrated  host and wine  pose  a risk of getting contaminated with the ‘dreaded’ Coronavirus? Reframing the question, do you  believe that  Covid-19, or for that matter  any disease,  will be   spread through the  most holy  body and blood of the  Son of God? If your answer is in the affirmative, please  get a mirror, place it in front of  your face  and confirm what you see there is the   image of a Christian.  My dear brothers and sisters, take it from me:  By  receiving  Holy  Communion on the  tongue, no Christian has ever contacted any  contagious  disease  during the past  two thousand years. No priest,  who has  given communion on the tongue has ever in the  history of two millennia complained of contacting any infection  through this  sacred  ministry.

Catholic life and faith are essentially ‘Eucharistic’ in nature. We commune in the very Body and Blood of the Risen Lord, the Son of God, the true Physician of our souls and bodies. What we see today is that the secular (or anti-christian) world is using the Covid -19 scare to  undermine the faith and traditional liturgical practices of the Church. There is no evidence at all that any kind of  disease has ever been transmitted through Eucharistic Communion. If that  was the  case, there would have been a much higher death-rate among clergy throughout  history, who consume the chalice after all the people have had Communion. If that was the case, then there would have been more Christians dying of  any  pandemic. Empirical evidence  does not  support this.

We should be  more concerned about the  virus of  impiety and  a lack of faith than the Coronavirus. The antidote to this  state of  mind is not avoiding Communion, but   presenting ourselves for frequent   Communion. 

If a woman who has been suffering from hemorrhages  for twelve years had the faith to believe that  by  touching the fringe of Jesus’ cloth, she  will be  healed, where is our faith  today? This  is not  simply touching the  fringe of   a cloth, but eating the  body and  drinking the blood of  Jesus, the  great healer. 

We have seen any number of Catholics who  casually show   their left hand to  receive   the  Communion,  and then  place it,  again with the same carelessness,  in  his mouth through a small opening made at the  upper side of the mask, as if he is  putting a  coin in a collection box! 

What do we do after receiving the communion? Gulping down it  in  a moment and  returning to  our world in the next!  Do we  give thanks to him  for sharing  his own body and  blood for   us so that we may have everlasting   life in him?   If you  feel like leaving the Church as soon as the  priest leaves the altar, let me tell you;  you should ignore that  call.  Jesus desires that we  should remain  with him at least for  sometime after receiving the communion. This time is most important and It should be used to thank Jesus and  converse with  him personally.

Having said this, one thing that  disappoints Jesus  is  somebody coming late for the Mass  or some others rushing in the last  moment. Has it  ever  come to your mind that Jesus  is eagerly waiting for  each one of us personally at the altar? Are we so busy as not to  reach the Church a few minutes before the Holy Mass starts? If you  practice it, I  can assure you, your experience  of the great mystery of  Eucharist will be  different from what you had been having till then. Just try it.

Now I would like to  draw your attention to  the widespread practice of  receiving communion in hand.  The Vatican has never permitted  communion in hand as a normal practice. It all  started in  the Catholic communities  of   countries like  Holland,  Belgium, France and Germany. After ascertaining the  views of  bishops all over the  world the Congregation for Divine Worship settled the issue   through  ‘Memoriale Domini’ on May 28, 1969  which concluded: “From the responses received, it is thus clear that by far the greater number of bishops feel that the present discipline [i.e., Holy Communion on the tongue] should not be changed at all, indeed that if it were changed, this would be offensive to the sensibility and spiritual appreciation of these bishops and of most of the faithful.” The Pope  judged that the long-received manner of ministering Holy Communion to the faithful should not be changed and  strongly urged bishops, priests and the laity to zealously observe this law out of concern for the common good of the Church”. 

This was Catholic Church’s official position. Then how did the  practice of  Communion in hand  become almost   a norm?

Let us  go back to 1969 when Pope Paul VI, in an effort to strike a compromise  between  the traditionalists who supported the  existing practice of  receiving  communion on the  tongue and the  liberals who  wanted it in  hands, issued an indult – an exception to the law – permitting Communion in hands under certain conditions.First and most important condition was that  this indult could not be given to a country in which Communion in the hand was not an already established practice; second, the bishops in countries where it was established must approve of the practice “by a secret vote and with a two-thirds majority.”  Apart from this, the Vatican  insisted that another  seven  conditions be complied for  availing this  exception of  Communion in hand. These conditions include   respecting the laity who continue the traditional practice (of receiving kneeling and on the tongue), maintaining the laity’s proper respect of the Eucharist, and strengthening the laity’s faith in the real presence.

I hope  it is pretty clear now.  Communion on the   tongue is the only permitted mode of distributing the  Eucharist.  Communion in  hand was  permitted as an exception under strict conditions, that too  as a compromise to  accommodate  those who  demanded  it.  A bishop or priest  can refuse  communion in hand. But they can never,  never refuse  giving Communion on the  tongue.  If you live in  a country where the practice of giving Communion in hand  was not prevalent as an established practice before 1969, then know that the Vatican  has  not   allowed  them  to start   giving Communion in hand taking advantage of the indult.

When I write these lines, I can  see the  faces of millions of  Catholics who are denied their basic  right of  receiving  Communion on the  tongue.  What we can do is to  request our pastors and  bishops to  be kind enough to  give  Communion  on the tongue and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide them in the correct way.

Whether they agree to our  request for  Communion on the  tongue or not, our duty towards  Holy Eucharist  does not change. Holy Eucharist  is to be given all the honor it deserves.   Think for a moment. If Jesus drops into your  house in person, how would you receive him? Would you not  go the extra mile to  make him  feel welcome? Then why not  give the same respect to  the  Holy Eucharist,  the true body  of  Jesus Christ.

In the intervening night of  Passover and  his crucifixion, Jesus was  with his disciples  in  Gethsemane.  After  dropping Peter, James and  John at a distance, Jesus went ahead praying. When he returned, the disciples were  sleeping. The question  Jesus  asked Peter  is directed at us also: ” So, could you not  stay awake  with me  one hour?” (Mt 26:40). Each one of us has to give an answer.  Can we stay awake with Jesus  one hour? If  you are ready, this is the right time. We invite all our readers  to spend as much  time as possible  with Jesus in Eucharistic adoration in reparation for the  offences committed against the Blessed Sacrament.  ‘ For they will be made holy who observe  holy things in holiness’ (Wis.6:10). Let us vow to  approach  the Holy Eucharist in  holiness.

Let us pray: Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, solitary, abandoned, humiliated, cursed, despised, outraged and ignored by men, have mercy on us.

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