Dear Parish Family:
You may have heard that Archbishop Thompson has lifted his suspension on distribution of holy Communion from the chalice starting this Advent.
However, the Archbishop leaves it to the local parish to determine when to return to this practice. “We want parishes to have that flexibility to make the decision at the local level when they are able to do it,” [Father Beidelman] said in the Criterion article. “Some may postpone it just because logistically they need to re-activate their extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, do a little bit of renewal, do a little catechesis with the parish.” Father Beidelman lists some good reasons for a careful and conscious return to the practice of distributing the Precious Blood at Mass.
Since we are in a three year National Eucharistic Revival, it makes sense to take this opportunity for renewal, catechesis and re-training of extraordinary ministers of holy Communion before reinstituting the chalice at Mass here at St. Malachy. Father Clawson and I will continue to work to make opportunities for our parish over the coming year to prepare our minds and hearts for our return to the distribution of the chalice in the wider context of what the holy Eucharist is and means.
For today, let’s just remember a few basic catechetical points:
Jesus Christ is really present—Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity—in both species (bread and wine) of the holy Eucharist. After the priest says the words of consecration (“Take this all of you and eat of it…” and “Take this all of you and drink from it…”), the bread—every crumb—and the wine—every drop—is changed substantially into Jesus Christ—Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity. While it may still look and taste like bread and wine, it is substantially something else—it is the substance of Jesus (God) Himself. This means we must show Him (the Eucharistic Presence) our greatest respect, love, adoration and reverence.
The Church desires us to receive Jesus into our bodies in holy Communion if and only if we are well-disposed to do so. This means that we should be spiritually prepared to receive Him into our bodies especially by being a Catholic in good standing free from any known mortal sins. This is why going to Sacramental Confession is so important to helping us prepare well to receive Jesus into our bodies.
Yet, the only person at Mass who must receive holy Communion under both species (bread and wine) is the priest(s) celebrating Mass. If he does not receive both species (bread and wine), his Mass is invalid—there is a defect or lack that does not make what is supposed to happen happen. Otherwise, no one else at Mass must receive holy Communion in order for Mass to be valid. As long as the priest does what he is supposed to do, Jesus is made truly present and grace falls upon us all; yet more grace comes to those who properly disposed receive Jesus in holy Communion.
When the faithful receive the host (bread), they do indeed receive the whole Jesus—Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity. This is important to reiterate, everyone who receives the host is receiving not only the Body of Christ but also the Blood of Christ. Jesus is totally present in both the species (bread and wine). Later we will talk about what it means to receive from the chalice as a lay person. For now, we should remember it does NOT mean that you receive more of Jesus. It has an altogether different meaning which will take some explaining.
Again, Jesus is totally present in every crumb and drop. And, He remains present even after Mass has finished. This is why the Eucharistic species that remain must be either properly consumed or reserved in the Tabernacle. Both of these actions have strict guidelines and directives from the Church which must be followed. Again, these will take some explaining as well which will help us to understand why it has taken so long for the Archbishop to release his suspension of the chalice to the faithful at Mass.
Because Jesus’ Real Presence continues after Mass, this is why Catholics genuflect (bend the right knee to the ground in adoration of Jesus) towards the Tabernacle whenever we enter and leave a Catholic Church. We are greeting our king, Christ the King of the Universe, who is truly present. This is also why a candle called a “sanctuary lamp” is always burning somewhere near the Tabernacle—to remind us that Jesus is really here!
I hope these catechetical points have been helpful. What happens at Mass is so beautiful. It is the heavenly liturgy which transcends our minds and material world unfolding before our eyes. I look forward to writing more and giving us in person opportunities to learn more about the meaning of these things and what is really happening at Mass. I pray you take advantage of them during this National Eucharistic Revival in order to grow closer to the Eucharistic Jesus.
In Jesus, through Mary and St. Joseph,