I am well aware that biblical experts would argue that the gospels as they relate to the issue of communion are not to be read literally. I am aware that the statements attributed to Jesus are considered more metaphor than as directive, more symbol than substance.
Yet, the act of communion seeks, it seems to me, to elevate us as humans into the realm of the divine in a way that is both beautiful and enriching.
I choose, by faith, to believe that in some mysterious way, I draw closer to my God through the act of communion.
As such, it was the most, nay, only, real pain that I felt when I was advised that my marriage to a previously divorced man, made me unfit for communion. I confess, knowing all that I know about the Catholic faith, which is fairly extensive, that I never thought that marriage to a divorced man who himself was not Catholic nor ever married to a Catholic would place this impediment in front of me.
It is the main reason that I left the church for a couple of years and sought a religious home in the Episcopal church. There I learned much. I had been well grounded in basic theology and biblical studies beforehand through the efforts of a priest and a couple of extraordinarily scholarly nuns. I was well on my way to the progressive side of my Church.
When I entered into communion with the Episcopal church, I learned even more. Again, I was gifted with many scholarly priests and laity who helped me to broaden my understanding of my Christian faith. I learned most especially that no human being has the right (moral at least) to judge that anyone else is unworthy of receiving communion.
That has come to be my belief. God is more than capable of making this decision with no input from our frail human understanding. God can withhold Himself (if you can imagine such a thing) from those who He deems unworthy. God’s church is there for one purpose–to bring people to know God, and to work in community to assist the uplifting of each and every person to full humanity–meaning that each is fed, clothed, schooled, medically treated, housed, and provided with good work at fair wages. The Church calls us to peaceful coexistence with those of other faiths and to community and common goals of good will toward all.
That is why it hurts so much to witness those who accept the Church’s ugly decision to withhold communion from its own. A woman of Asian descent sits close to me most Sundays. She is soft-spoken, with a sweet smile. She was a reader of the Word a few Sunday’s ago. She read a piece from James so beautifully that it was the best reading I have ever heard. Yet, when it comes to communion, she sits down and prays by herself.
Last Sunday, a man sat in front of me. He was clearly not wealthy, and was a simple sort. He prayed and moved through the Mass as one expects of someone who was a cradle-Catholic. He held to some of the “old” ways. He exhibited the simple piety that I find so endearing among so many who are in the later years and were raised in the faith. He too sat down when it came to communion.
I know not what the “impediments” these two lived with. I know that it would do no good to speak to them, for they accept without question the church’s right to impose this exile upon them. They would be appalled no doubt at the suggestion that they should go forth to receive the bread and wine.
I am only so very sad for them. For I find it so unnecessary and so harsh and unfair. It is not in line with the teachings of Christ. It is a human rule, based on some logical deduction of long-held and established truths of the church. While logic often times is useful in discovering truth, it sometimes leads to unfairness and wrong thinking.
This is one of them from my point of view.
- Communion Meditation: A Table for the Humble (apologus.wordpress.com)
- Communication and the Communion of Community. (mccurdyca.wordpress.com)