Sunday, June 9, 2013

Receiving the Eucharist in an Unworthy Manner

Image from LifeTeen
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. (1 Cor 11:27-29, RSV-CE)
St. Paul instructs the Church in Corinth to discern the body of Christ with respect when they received the body and blood of Our Lord in the Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:29). This passage can rightly be interpreted to mean that we need to be mindful of being properly disposed to receive the Eucharist, but it contains additional meanings. [Note: All of these scenarios, assume the person is a Catholic who has received the sacraments.]

Spiritual Disposition
Prior to receiving the Eucharist, one should be properly disposed. This happens in a couples of ways. First, we should approach the Eucharist in a prayerful and reflective manner. Additionally, we should examine our consciences to insure that we are in a state of grace – that we are free from mortal sin. If we are in a state of mortal sin, we should not receive Communion and immediately seek the sacrament of Reconciliation.  See Can. 916 and Can. 988 for a more extensive discussion of the elements.

The Eucharistic Fast
We are now required to abstain from food and drink one hour before the reception of Communion (Can. 919).  Note that the requirement is one hour before COMMUNION, not the start of Mass. We shouldn't make a habit of this minimalistic approach, but it is good to know if you are in a pinch. The fast does not include water or medication. Chewing gum prior to mass is NOT a violation of the fast (EWTN), but chewing gum during Mass is disrespectful. If you wouldn't (and you can't) chew gum in a court room, why would you do it in the Lord's house?

Discerning the Body of Christ
St. Paul is also teaching us (in 1 Cor. 11:29) to discern Christ in all those who make up his body and to treat them with the dignity they should be accorded. In other words, respect for Christ in the Eucharist has to be coupled with a respect for all mankind. The commentary from The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament supports this claim: 
Probably a word play on the term "body", which refers to the Eucharistic Body of Christ and to the ecclesial Body of Christ made up of believers united to him (10:16-17; 12:12). Recognizing Jesus in the Sacrament is thus coupled with recognizing him in our spiritual brothers and sisters (Mt 25:34-40). (The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, 302). 
This lesson is supported by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that asserted “by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man” (Gaudim et spes, 22). Christ further teaches us that we are to follow in His footsteps of humility. We too are called to live lives of humility. Christ not only humbled Himself to become human and dying on the cross, but he also humbled Himself by taking on the form of bread. We must open ourselves to union with Christ in the Eucharist, allowing Him to transform us. “Sharing in the body and blood of Christ has no other effect than to accomplish our transformation into that which we receive” (Lumen Gentium, 26). As my mother used to say, “you are what you eat.” 

Eucharistic Prayer
I recall reading the following prayer. It sums up how we should be disposed to receiving our Lord in the Eucharist.

Lord, May I receive you like this is the first time, the last time and the only time I will receive you.