Holy Eucharist: Abuses or playing to the gallery?

By Rev. Fr. Eva Chuma Nnamene

First and foremost, we express our gratitude to Rev. Fr. Oliver Onah who held this column for over a year. His insightful and inspirational articles made this column an interesting one on our Weekday Bulletin. May Our Mother Mary accompany him in his new assignments!

Last week, he handled a theme on the Holy Eucharist which we would like to carry on a little bit before taking up other themes.

In the said last week's edition, Fr. Oliver Onah treated "Does the Holy Eucharist work miracle?" Yes, testimonies abound on the miracles wrought by Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. However, Fr. Oliver warned against reducing the Eucharist to miracle working object, or using it as amulet or talisman.

Such usage of the Holy Eucharist is abusive. There are three classifications of the abuses done on the Holy Eucharist. The first is the most grievous abuses. The second is the grievous abuses. And the third falls under other abuses.

1. The most grievous abuse is concerned with the sanctity of the Holy Eucharist. It involves consecrating it, taking it away, throwing it or retaining for sacrilegious purposes. This is not a common abuse because it is only done by those with ulterior motives, or those who wish to give the most irreverent treatment to the Eucharist.

Some of such people are those who have discovered the powers of the Holy Eucharist, but would want to use such powers for occult purposes. Sometime last year, some churches in Enugu were desecrated as their tabernacles were violated and the Eucharist was sullied. If anyone is involved in such desecration, he or she incurs a "latae sententiae" excommunication that is reserved only to the Holy See to absolve (Code of Canon Law, n. 1967).

2. On the other hand, the grievous abuse is concerned with the state of the priest celebrant; the matters that are used for the consecration of the Eucharist which have to be the unleavened bread and the approved wine from the vines; that the appropriate prayers are used, and the mention of the Pope's and Bishop's names are mentioned at their specified places; and other stipulations on the part of the recipient of the Eucharist. There are several codes of the law that address how the abuses under this segment are to be handled (Code of Canon Law, nn. 1364 to 1376, and 1980 to 1989).

3. Other abuses sound as if they are less grievous but they too are of utmost importance for the Church. Abuses that fall under this segment do not come against the sanctity of the Eucharist, or of its matter and form. They are rather abuses coming from irreverent handling of the Eucharist. In Nigeria, and especially in Igbo land, the Holy Eucharist is adored and worshipped. But in the process of adoration and worship, one may begin to find irreverent activities or behaviours.

Ordinarily, in the presence of the Holy Eucharist, there is absolute silence. It invokes the spirit of Psalm 46:10 "be still, and know that I am God". But that is difficult to find these days. Eucharistic adorations and processions have become jubilatory and triumphant activities and movements which could be offshoot of our Christ the King processions. Psalms 98:4; and 100:1 would even recommend that joyful noise, praise, or shout be made unto the Lord. But the question is: how reverential are those noises, praises and shouts? That is the crux of the matter. But beyond the noise is the dancing.

Dancing is something good both physically and psychologically. And there are no regulations banning dancing by Christians. What is more, some biblical passages promote even dancing for the Lord: Psalms 149:3; 150:4; Ecclesiastes 3:4 stipulates time for everything including dancing; Jeremiah 31:13, and Psalm 30:11 indicate how the Lord turns the mourning of His children to dancing. So dancing could be a good exercise.

However, there are some dances before the exposed Blessed Sacrament during adorations that are sacrilegious. During praises at Eucharistic adorations in some places, some young men and women dance in such manner that the twisting of their waist and torso could be nothing but reverential worship to the Lord. Some young people dance "awilo", "makosa", "udu bunch" before the Holy Eucharist - those distract attention of worshippers from the Master to those who are dancing.

It becomes more like the proverbial "ayara anyinya kir'de nwukwueze". Such dances could lead to immorality, impurity, licentiousness, orgies and so on unbecoming of God's children (Galatians 5:19-20). Our dances should be praise unto our Eucharistic Lord!

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