Monday, October 25, 2010
What Shall We Do?
First a clarification: dislike is not the same as a medical reason why a person cannot receive the wheat based host or the wine in the cup. This is NOT about personal preference or taste. So if someone comes to me and says "I really do not like the taste of (wheat bread) hosts or wine, so can I have a non-gluten host and grape juice?" The answer is simple. No. This is not about taste or preference. The only legitimate question here is what to do with those who cannot for legitimate medical reason eat the gluten in the host or the alcohol in the wine.
So what shall we do? I know that there are many who are very quick to make a change in which a rice base host is offered as an option to the gluten based host and grape juice offered as a substitute for the wine in the cup. Folks have brought me bulletins from Lutheran (and Missouri) parishes in which these options are noted so that people can make the choice for themselves. Some are rather tastefully done and others simply embarrassing (the one in which a pregnant female Lutheran Pastor says to take the cups closest to her "belly" as the ones with grace juice).
I know that there are Roman Catholic supply stores where you can supply non-alcoholic wine (mustum) and non-gluten hosts (soy and rice flour based). But, if you look you find a note of warning indicating that this is "not approved for use by the Holy See" or not legitimate to substitute for the ordinary elements of the gluten host and wine. There is one company that produces a host nearly gluten free which Rome does allow. There is also a provision for a non-alcoholic wine in which fermentation has been suspended but the essence unaltered.
Some of you are wondering now, what is the big deal? I mean we have non-alcoholic beer, so why can't we substitute something else for the host and cup in order that the people may have what they want or need? This is something that cannot be changed by preference or need. This is part of the divine constitution of the Eucharist, the matter of the sacrament that our Lord has given to us. It is not that to use these substitutes means that Christ is not present but rather that we have no assurance that if we depart from His institution and command Christ will be present. So, we keep to the elements of Christ just as we keep the Word of Christ, so that we may be assured that this bread is His body and this wine His blood as He has pledged and promised.
So what do I do? If someone comes with a gluten issue, they commune under the cup only. If someone comes with an alcohol intolerance (usually related to a medicine being taken), they commune under the host only. We do NOT believe in a divided Christ. Lutherans contended that to withhold the cup from the laity was a violation of Christ's command and intention but that this did not mean that those who had communed only under one species had somehow received no communion or only half of Christ. This is not a case of either element being withheld but of medical necessity which precludes a communicant's participation in both.
So, there is my answer... what is yours? What do YOU do?