Sunday, April 15, 2018

Ya'll Come. . . or maybe ihr kommt. . .

In an article by Msgr. Hans Feichtinger over at First Things, the German bishops have announced that they will soon publish new guidelines for reception of the Holy Eucharist. In the future, non-Catholics married to Catholic spouses and attending Mass with their families could, in certain cases, be admitted to communion if they profess the Catholic faith in that sacrament. By this the Roman Catholics (at least some of the ones in Germany) are doing two things that have become super problematic for us in the Missouri Synod.  They have individualized belief AND made belief in the Real Presence the prerequisite for receiving the Sacrament.  Both of these have made close(d) communion one giant hassle for those in the LCMS and now the German Roman Catholic bishops seem intent upon following the same playbook.

The problem with this is that the faith is not one person wide and one person deep.  It is the faith that transcends the ages, confessed in time in creed, and defined by doctrine held in common.  Our faith is not a "me'n'Jesus" faith but a communion of saints, transcended in time and expanded in space.  The marks of the Church are not individual piety but the Means of Grace.  Where the Word and Sacraments are, the Church is there and the Church exists where the Means of Grace are.  Through the waters of baptism, one becomes joined to the many because they are united with Christ (and through Christ to all who share this new birth of water and the Word).  Sure, there are irregular situations in which one may rightly believe, having heard the Word in which the Spirit is at work, but not yet be baptized AND there may be those who are baptized who have refused the Spirit and do not believer, but these are not normative.  And the baptized, who join in common confession of what it is that they believe, confess, and teach, are gathered also around the Table of the Lord.

The other problem with this is that the Catholic faith in the Sacrament (the Real Presence and ???) cannot be isolated out of the whole of what is believed, confessed, and taught in such manner that those who do so, despite other differences, are united enough, at least, to eat together the flesh and blood of Christ.  The bishops are not promoting irresponsible inter-communion.  No siree, they certainly would suggest that pastors (stewards of the mysteries) should make a reasonable effort to discern in each individual case whether their admission as a non-Catholic to communion would be permissible.  According to these bishops, those who would desire to receive Holy Communion must profess the Catholic faith in the Eucharist. How odd, however, since that Catholic profession, at least until now, pretty much said that no non-Catholic may receive communion in a Roman Catholic Church.  In order for them to receive Holy Communion as a non-Catholic, it would be required that they at least   belong to a church in which all sacraments are considered such and valid (the list is not long here), and that one must be in the state of grace, which in normal parlance means going to confession once in a while (sooner rather than later is also better).

Ahhhh, the problems of trying to be ecumenical!  No one wants to be an inhospitable host -- not even to people who disagree with your faith and may, in other circumstances, wish a pox upon your house.   So most churches have given up.  Faith is one person wide and one person deep.  As long as you believe Jesus is somewhere in the room, it is enough to chomp down with us.  It is so terribly mundane.  It makes Jesus and His meal so ordinary.  It makes it seem as if it is no big deal -- not what you believe nor what you eat!!!  It is just appearances.  And if it is just that, then why bother -- to hell with it (one of my favorite Flannery O'Connor quotes).  If welcoming those who do not share the faith or who have not been examined and absolved and can receive rightly the gift is preferred over being true to what the Sacrament is, then O'Connor is correct.  To hell with it.  But that is what the German Roman Catholic bishops and some within the LCMS (one of the few remaining non-Roman churches to retain a semblance of close(d) communion) seem to want to make it -- nothing all that important at all. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Worth your time is Rev. Prof. Benjamin Mayes’ sermon at Kramer Chapel on Thursday, 12 April 2018, the first installment of a series on the Sacrament of the Altar: What is the Sacrament of the Altar?; What is the Benefit of this eating and drinking?; and Who receives this Sacrament worthily?; these topics are taken from Luther’s Small Catechism.