Category Archives: Eucharist

Thomas doubt exists today

communion byzantineThe Second Sunday of Easter presents to us the gospel reading of the Thomas doubting the existence of the risen Lord. The day has many names.

This gospel is proclaimed in the Novus Ordo, the Traditional and Byzantine Liturgies. In the Novus Ordo Liturgy today’s Mass can be referred to as Divine Mercy Sunday. The Latin Mass calls today Low Sunday (after the great solemn feast of Easter), or today is called dominica in albis depositis or “the Sunday in which the white clothes are put away”.  Yet another way of referring to today is “Quasimodo Sunday”, because of the first words of the entrance antiphon sung for the Latin Mass which uses the words taken from Peter, Quasi modo geniti infantes, Halleluja, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite (“yearn for the pure spiritual milk as if you were newborn children”).

In all these names, what can we say about this portion of the mystery of the faith in Christian today? If you think about the truth Jesus presented to the Apostles about Himself, it seems that truth is not as convincing as the doubt some put forward as reasonable. I am not quite sure I understand the penchant we have for doubting reasonableness of truth, but doubt exists and I have come to believe that God uses doubt to teach us the meaning of beauty, goodness and truth. Thomas, later revered as a saint and founder of the Church in India, tells us with certitude that the Lord is alive after death on the cross but only after verifying the physicality of the person Jesus when he says, My Lord and my God. He is said by Jesus that he blessed for what he has seen.

Doubting ThomasIn the Byzantine Liturgy the Troparion of St Thomas is sung: While the tomb was sealed You shone forth from it, O Christ our Life, and while the doors remained closed, You stood among your Disciples, O Resurrection of all, and through them You restored a new spirit in us according to your great Mercy.

Today, we are faced with some similar doubts about Jesus, the sacraments and Christian  life. Doubt is not new. And, perhaps Saint Thomas did us a favor in recognizing the concrete facts of our faith. Coming to Catholic faith means that we proclaim from whom salvation comes. It means that we are to be missionary so that all people come before the Lord.

One piece of our Catholic life is faith in the Holy Eucharist: faith in the Divine Presence here and now in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Teaching adults about First Holy Communion is difficult –think of the difficulty there is teaching third graders about the Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion. I recall what is called a Eucharistic miracle where a priest doubted the presence of Jesus in the sacred Host and the Lord gave the priest the a sign of Divine Presence by turing the host in heart muscle and the wine into blood.

The English theologian Monsignor Ronald Knox this about the Holy Eucharist: “We have never, as Christians, been truly faithful to Jesus, no matter our denomination. In the end none of us have truly followed those teachings which most characterize Jesus- We have not turned the other cheek. We have not forgiven our enemies. We have not purified our thoughts. We have not seen God in the poor. We have not kept our hearts pure and free from the things of this world. But we have been faithful in one very important way- we have kept the Eucharist going.”

Eucharistic Box or Reliquary

Eucharistic Box or Reliquary, silver, traces of niello; early 5th century; Kurin, SyriaI saw this post on FB today and thought about the various ways in which the Church “houses” the Eucharistic species of the Lord. To say that there is but one way to think liturgically and theologically is limited.

What you is an “Eucharistic Box or Reliquary,” made of silver, traces of niello in the early 5th century in Kurin, Syria.

“The celebration of the Divine Liturgy is one of the most important ceremonies in the Christian Church. This reliquary is part of a silver service, that is one of only four to survive from the first “golden age” of Byzantium (6th century). This silver service was found in Syria in 1910, in the village of Kurin. The Greek form of its name, Kaper Koraon, is inscribed on several pieces in the treasure, including a chalice, which reads: “…treasure of the Church of St. Sergios of the village of Kaper Koraon.” Almost all of the vessels record the names of donors who gave pieces from their private dinner services in fulfillment of a vow, to gain divine blessing, or in prayer for salvation.”

Saint Justin, martyr

justin martyrAmong the many saints honored today, Justin the martyr is one that needs to be invoked due to his reasonableness in the approach he took regarding the faith on all levels. He met his destiny in being beheaded in AD 165 at Rome. This second century saint and philosopher is know for his defense of the faith by using the gift of reason. Today we could use a good dose of Justin in making the reasons for being Christian known and understandable. One of the famous interchanges he had went like this: “Rusticus said: ‘What system of teaching do you profess?’ Justin said: ‘I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians, though these are not approved by those who are held fast by error.'”

In Justin’s First Apology sacramental and liturgical theologians look to Justin because of the rigor he had for being consistent with divine revelation; in the work just named Justin takes on the followers of Mithras for the mimicking of the Eucharist and confusing the faithful and distracting the proper defense of the faith. Justin’s eucharistic faith is something for us today to understand. Justin’s use of language is stunning:

But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation.

Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands.

And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to ge’noito [so be it].

And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion (ch. 65).

and

“And this food is called among us Eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.

For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” – (First Apology, 66)

Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it, Flannery O’Connor’s insight into eucharistic coherence

Flannery O'Connor2.jpg

One of the authors that I believe we have to look to for insight when it comes to sacramentality is the great southern woman, Flannery O’Connor. The great feast of Corpus Christi is this weekend. 


Here is a reflection for us on the Vigil of Corpus et Sanguis Christi:

“I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater. (She just wrote that book, A Charmed Life). She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. 

We went at eight and at one, I hadn’t opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say. The people who took me were Robert Lowell and his now wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them. 

Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. 

I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”

Eucharistic coherence today when there’s division of communio

Jesus Supper.jpg

There is an interesting concept introduced in ecclesial document that has caused me to pause to consider: eucharistic coherence. In reflecting upon its meaning and application, it is also connected with the theological concept of communio, said to have derived from Trinitarian theology. Communio is used in all areas of Catholic life: how we know and live in the Church, our sacramental life, our life with each other, and our hope in salvation.

Today, more than ever we need to have an intelligent understanding of eucharistic coherence. One such place for me is looking at the experience when members of the Church are in disagree, privately and publicly with what is revealed in sacred Scripture and taught by and lived in the Church. There are many examples that come to mind. I write this reflection knowing full well that my own conversion is ongoing, that I am not a perfect witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that I need to live more coherently not because of a moralism but because I want to be in a better loving relationship with the Lord.


The reception of Holy Communion to Catholics is a contentious issue in the USA. The communio among Catholics is in weakened state by a lack of coherence in belief and practice when comes to who receives Holy Communion. My own assessment is that there is no uniform approach to the thinking and pastoral practice among the bishops in this country and that some bishops have fuzzy approach which has trickled down to the lower clergy and laity who distribute the Eucharistic Lord (i.e., Holy Communion) at Mass. Cardinal Dolan has his approach to the issue, so does Cardinal Wuerl, as Archbishop Nauman as I am sure that the newly appointed Bishop Barber has an idea what  practice will be followed in his diocese. We saw in the time when Cardinal Burke was the archbishop of St Louis that he tried to teach with a distinct voice on this subject, and we can look also Cardinal George, Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Finn in the way they connect with other bishops in the USA, or not. In some ways all bishops agree; but in others they differ in how deal with the matter. Cardinal Dolan recently gave Communion to Vice President Joe Biden at Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral. The debates have been unhelpful because the baptized faithful, never mind the distinguishing those who have clerical status, are unclear in personal terms as to what ought to be done. But this can’t be said for all: plenty of Catholics in the USA have voiced their opinion when it comes to those who don’t adhere to the teachings of the Gospel, and the clear and consistent teaching of the Church. There are 64 million Catholics in the USA and not all of them are aware of the need to be coherent in matters of faith and practice. Receiving the Lord in the Eucharist is not a political choice, it is not a policy, it is not merely a nice thing to do because my grandmother would be disappointed and nor is receiving Communion the right thing to do when you are in mortal sin. Recall what Saint Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27).

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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