Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I'm gonna take my soul and go home!

I attended a Byzantine Divine Liturgy in the cathedral in Peoria last Sunday. You can read all about it here. (I note that at Amy Welborn's blog, a post about a wonderful divine liturgy devolved in the comments into sniping over the latin mass. Never mind the wonderful event that 1100 people attended!) I was standing near the back, and a woman in front of me turned around to ask my wife and me if she could go up at communion with her arms crossed to receive a blessing, since she wasn't Catholic. I told her that she shouldn't go up, since we don't have the custom of giving blessings in our church. In fact, if you cross your arms on your chest, that's our normal way of receiving the Eucharist; the priest would be confused. Better, said I, to remain standing at your place.

"Then I think I'll just go home!" says the woman, as she gathers up her stuff.

"But. . . ." said I, flabbergasted, "there's a blessing at the close of liturgy!" But it was too late. She'd decided that if she couldn't get her Special Personal Blessing, she wasn't going to stay.

This led me to reflect on just how awful the custom is of going up to "get a blessing" rather than communion. It arises from bad eucharistic theology, the theology of the communion of the faithful with each other, rather than with one's Lord. This theology requires everyone to receive. God forbid you remain prayerfully in your spot. People might stare! Everybody goes up to communion these days, sinners and saints alike. Boy, if you stay in your seat, you must be some kind of pervert or murderer!

Look, given the rate of mortal sin going on (judging by the statistical evidence--of course the statistics can't reveal the internal states of people's souls), most people should be refraining from taking communion. Then we wouldn't have to adopt the barbarous custom of giving individual blessings when there are blessings written into the entire liturgy.


joe said...

And yet the people to our right were actually chanting along at the end, or trying to, and attended the reception.

Fr. S.T. said...

thank you for shedding light on a common and frankly idiotic practice. There is a reason that non-Catholics are not permitted to receive Holy Communion because they are in fact not in full communion with the Church from which they wish to receive Holy Communion. You cannot imagine how much grief I took when I stopped that practice the virtual instant I became pastor. And now I only do it when visitors come and no one informs them. Later though I do try to catch them and quietly say, "No blessings during Communion."

Bill said...

We still have to herd/carry/drag our yungins with us when we receive, and, unfortunately, all the priests (or EEMs if the luck of the Irish fails and Father takes the other line) make every effort to track them down and bless them. No blessing-circuses during Communion sounds like a fine policy since, as Dr. Athanasius noted, the liturgy is rife with blessings.

Susan said...

How about thinking about it from the point of view of the person who wants the blessing? She knew she should not participate in communion. I can't defend her reaction.

They don't do it to promote bad eucharistic theology. I doubt if the idea arises from that. Furthermore, I would hardly call it barbarous.

I certainly understand your point,
and I probably agree with you. However, there are bigger problems to solve, and more importantly, more prayers to say.

God Bless

Karl said...

Dear Susan,

There are always bigger problems to solve. But doesn't mean we can't solve little ones.

Although, since this grows out of a misunderstanding of liturgy, which is, as JPII says, the most important event in the cosmos, it might be important to get it right.

JACK said...


Do you have any sense as to whether this is just an American thing? The reason I ask is that I've attended a lot of spanish and other foreign language Masses in the United States and abroad. In those Masses, I routinely see people staying seated in the pews, and actually only a minority go up to receive. So I'm curious how much of this is a problem of American-Western culture.


Ambrosius said...

Amen, amen, amen.