Tag Archives: eucharistic coherence

Jesus: I am the bread of life

Last Supper San MarcoI love the gospel readings for the month of August because they give us the eucharistic theology of Divine Presence and the Divine Pledge for Eternal Life. These readings are known as the Bread of Life discourse taken from the Gospel of Saint John (chapter 6). You might say that the readings from Saint John’s gospel offers a timely reflection and orientation for eucharistic coherence. They indeed do, and this is no small gift these days when you hear more disagreement of what the Holy Eucharist is and why we receive Him. Faith informs me that sacramental Communion is Jesus Himself.

Whom do we receive in Holy Communion?


The question of what it means to be fed by the Bread of Life is not only a question for Holy Thursday, Corpus Christi or on the feast days of “eucharistic saints” like Saint Peter Julian Eymard. Today, the 19th Sunday Through the Church Year gives us the pericope that records the words of Jesus, and it is quite clear of who Jesus is and what the point is: “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” He also tells us: “I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”

Here is a paragraph from a Sermon by Eutychius of Constantinople:

No one, then, after the sacramental sacrifice and the holy resurrection, should have any doubt regarding the incorruptible, immortal, holy, and life-giving body and blood of the Lord. Once infused into the sacred elements through the liturgical rites, they communicate their own properties no less than do the aforementioned examples. They are wholly present in every part, for then the Lord’s body dwells corporally, that is to say, substantially, all the fullness of the divine nature of the Word of God. The breaking of this precious bread signifies his sacrificial death, and so he spoke of the passover as something to be longed for because it was to bring us salvation, immortality, and perfect knowledge.”

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

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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

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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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