Other Abuses of the Holy Eucharist

By Rev. Fr. Eva Chuma Nnamene

Before we get into this week's presentation on the Holy Eucharist, let us just finish the business of last week's edition. The condemnation we gave to seductive dances before the Holy Eucharist attracted comments from readers. Some of them condemned such dances, while some commentators thought there was no problem with such dances - after all, when David was moving the Ark of the Lord, he danced nakedly before the Lord (2 Samuel 6).

In the said passage, David whirled himself round before the Lord - wearing a linen loincloth (2 Samuel 6: 14). Though he was partly naked, the war songs he danced to, gave a different undertone to his dance that even the maidens who were there did not see his dance as erotic (2 Samuel 6: 21-22).

The intention of a person might be good, but onlookers who may not know the presumed good intention may see only the action which may likely condemn the good intention. Bad dances are bad. They should not be encouraged for whatever reason in our Eucharistic worships.

If we talk about abuses, it is because there are outlined guidelines of how the Holy Eucharist is to be handled. It is even from the apostolic era that regulations began governing the celebration, reception and conservation of the Holy Eucharist.

Amongst the first regulations were those given by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 11: 27-29). He introduced the notion of worthily or unworthily reception. In spite of his teaching, most Christian denominations have no regulation that stipulates worthily or unworthily reception. For some denominations, it is sufficient that you are in the church; once it is communion time, everybody goes for it.

Even if one is a new comer in the church, you go to receive communion. Some churches give their members the communion which they take home, and take at will. It is only in the Catholic Church that the real presence of Jesus is talked about. It is only the Catholic Church that regulations are given because the Eucharist is Jesus Himself.

In the Holy Roman Catholic Church, Pauline regulations abide. Not only that, Canon 916 recommends what should be done in a situation of unworthiness. The reception of sacramental confession is recommended before the celebration or reception of the Holy Eucharist when one is unworthy due to some grievous sin.

Where confession before celebration or reception is difficult, this Canon recommends that perfect contrition should be made, and strong resolve to go to confession as soon as possible would be of utmost importance for the person.

The number of Catholics who receive Communion on Sunday without observing the prescribed fast is alarming these days. Father Jude Odoh once told a story of a boy in the Catechism class for First Holy Communion. With other candidates, this boy was duly instructed about the fast. But he broke it on his First Communion.

When confronted, he argued that he had to eat before communion because he thought it was disrespectful to Jesus if the "akpu" he ate should be on top of the Communion. According to this boy, Jesus should be on top of the "akpu" he ate.

And so he broke the fast regulation. Much as this story sounds absurd, people rationalize too much than just to follow the Church's regulations on the Holy Eucharist. Some people argue about lengthy Church services, and because of that they eat before going to Mass.

Our comportment discloses our inner disposition for the Holy Eucharist. When people walk lackadaisically as if they are strolling to receive the Eucharist, they display their lack of demeanor to receive Jesus. Our bodily comportment should portray the holiness of what we receive. Comport yourself well, knowing that in Holy Communion, you receive God Himself.

Our comportment should portray respect, awe, dignity, and adoration that come from our heart.

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