Come and Dine: An Ecunemical Invitation

Derek Ouellette —  May 12, 2011 — 20 Comments

[Forward: Please Read First – Since this post was originally published I’ve received a lot of flack for unintentionally disrespecting the Catholic Church. So I want to share a dialogue I had with a facebook friend, JoAnn:

JoAnn: “I was raised Catholic. I am surprised they let you receive communion. I went to a Catholic funeral recently where they were very adamant that is was ONLY for Catholic (in their church of course).”

Derek: “Ya, the priest did not make it clear that it was just for Catholics. He simply said, “part of our faith”. I took that as an ecumenical invitation. I’m beginning to think I should not have though. Live and learn.”

JoAnn: “well fortunately PROTESTANT is not written on our foreheads”]

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During the Exodus celebration (also known as Passover) Jesus gathered together with his closest friends and initiated what has variously come to be termed “The Lord’s Supper”, “The Eucharist” or simply “Communion”. That last term is my favorite because it captures the essence of Paul’s complaint in 1 Corinthians 11:

“In the following directives I have no praise for you… In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you… When you come together it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else.” 1 Corinthians 11:17-20

The context lays clear the issue Paul has in mind: division in the body of Christ.

The believers where first of all not united, but secondly, they would not wait for one another. The body of Christ wasn’t much functioning like a body. Paul goes so far to say, “it is not the Lord’s supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else“. In other words, call it Eucharist, call it the Lord’s Supper, call it Communion, but if you eat in division, it’s not really the Lord’s Supper.

Being Protestant, I always raised more than a few eyebrows at the Catholic Church. First, we were Christians, they were merely Catholics in need of salvation. If ever I attended a Catholic service during which the Eucharist was offered, I made my protest clear: I refused to go up and partake. Not only were they not real Christians (in my opinion), and not only were their rituals eerily cultic to my understanding, but they believed something too weird for me to accept: “Transubstantiation”, the belief that the bread and wine literally transform into the body and blood of Christ. Yuck!

Today we buried my grandmother.

The service was held in a Catholic Church.

The Eucharist was offered.

I partook.

It was the first time in my life I recall ever taking Communion with my Catholic brother’s and sisters. Admittedly it felt strange to do so.

The priest gave us three options: we could come up and receive the bread (I don’t understand why only the bread is offered); we could come up and receive a blessing; or we could remain in our seats.

I nudged my wife, but she didn’t want to go. I looked around, my brother and his wife sitting somewhere to my left. My sister and her husband sitting somewhere across the aisle to my right. No movement from them. No judgment from me. I could just as easily remained in my seat. But after a moment of hesitancy I jerked up and got into line.

When I stood before the priest, hands cupped in front of my chest ready to receive, there was a moment of hesitancy on his part and a look of perplexion on his face. I began to worry that I missed a step. Was I supposed to say something like “Father, I receive this wafer” or something like that? Was I supposed to genuflex or cross myself? Has the cat been let out of the bag, that I’m Protestant[!]?

Finally he placed the wafer in my hand. I thanked him and put it in my mouth as I returned to my seat passing my brother who was watching me with a big smile on his face. I didn’t mean for it to be a joke. I hope no one took it as me mocking the Catholic Church.

Later I was talking to my wife about the whole incident. She explained to me that the reason she didn’t go up was because she didn’t know what to do or what rituals were involved. Recalling my awkward moment, I’d say for someone less forward then I, that reason is perfectly understandable.

So what changed? Why did I – an uncultured, low church Protestant – partake in the Eucharist at a Catholic Church?

It goes back to the passage in 1 Corinthians and every other passage in the New Testament were the Lord’s Supper is discussed. The Church is the body of Christ. One Church. One Body. Orthodox may disagree. Catholics may disagree. Protestants may disagree. They can disagree all they want. Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one as he and the Father are one.

That is my prayer too.

Of course the various traditions have understood what exactly takes place during the Lord’s Supper different. There is the Catholic view of Transubstantiation, the Lutheran view of Consubstantiation, Calvin’s view of ascension, Zwingli’s view of symbolism, and even Pentecostalism has it’s own take on it (incorporating a physical healing dimension). But the scriptures are just not that clear on the matter and so we should not allow our various understandings of Communion prevent us from communing together.

To do so is an affront to Christ’ body and a sin for which Paul says, “I have no praise for you” (1 Corinthians 11:17). Where Paul once exhorted against the divisions of the early church: “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, but all are one in Christ”, he might very well instruct us today, “there are neither Eastern Orthodox nor Roman Catholic nor Protestant, but all are one in Christ”.

Communion is about the body of Christ celebrating the work of Christ on the cross together, until He returns. The way I see it. In the eschaton all of the disciples will be gathered together with our Lord physically present, and we will partake in the Lord’s Supper together.

I figure, why not start now.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    Interesting that the following words of Jesus occur in the context of a discussion of the Eucharist: “No one can come to me unless the Father draw them.”

    Next time you receive at an RC Mass, after the priest, deacon, or eucharistic minister shows you the consecrated bread as he says, “The Body of Christ” respond, “Amen”. When you receive from the chalice, the same thing applies. Minister: “The blood of Christ.” You: “Amen”.

    And may your grandmother rest in peace.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Great thoughts Greg. P.S. I’m working on putting together some thoughts regarding the post you wrote for my benefit.

  • http://www.drewchapados.net Drew Chapados

    Interesting post.
    Concerning the non-offering of the cup–
    a scholar in our fellowship–John Mark Hicks wrote a worthy book called, Come to the Table and goes through the evolution of the different traditions and their practices concerning the Lord’s Supper and there at one time was an issue concerning that–so only the priests ended up partaking.
    I’ll have to look it up to be for sure–but there was something involved with that.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Is that the same John Hicks who is a Universalist?

  • http://wearethestories.com Eric Gregory

    I have yet to partake in a Catholic Eucharist, mostly because it is the teaching of the Catholic Church that it is for Christians who are in full communion with Rome only. I’ve been tempted, but out of respect for my Roman brothers, I have refrained.

    While the biblical and historical evidence for partaking in one another’s communion, respect for the traditions of others seem to trump that. If the Roman Catholic Church isn’t in communion with you and would see your partaking as an affront to the Eucharist itself or the Church, I’m hard pressed to find a reason to violate that…

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Good point. No offense or disrespect was intended (as I said in the post) and the offer extended by the Priest was simply: “If you share our faith.” And I do.

    • Robert McCarty

      like

  • Paul

    You are totally unaware of the sacrilege you have committed and the lack of respect you have had for Jesus. Read the bread of life discourse in John. Jesus wasn’t speaking metaphorically when he said you have no life in you unless you eat the flesh of the son of man. He meant it. Many of his followers were perturbed at what he was saying and stopped following him. He didn’t correct them and say, ‘oh wait, I was only talking metaphorically!’. Do you not think this is possible for God to be truly present? Surely you know that anything is possible with God, this is fundamental to a faith on God.
    Read what the early church fathers believed. The church has always believed in the real presence of the Eucharist from the very beginning. He’s the new Passover, the new Passover lamb. We have to partake in eating the sacrifice just as the Jews did in the Passover. It’s biblical typology.
    Research what the Catholic church teach from a Catholic perspective not from a anti-Catholic perspective. You are scratching the surface of your faith. Catholicism is so much deeper and richer than what you currently understand. I pray for you that your eyes and heart will be opened to the fullness of faith.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      And there’s dogmaticism at it’s finest! Paul, I have no interest in debating you on the various views of what precisely happens during Eucharist (was Christ literally physically “a door”, was he already crucified prior to sharing “His body” at the last supper?).

      Partaking in Communion with other believers may have offended them – as Eric has pointed out – but what offends Christ is a gathering of Christian believers who refuses other Christian believers the Eucharist table. It is not Jesus I offended, the true offense is to keep the table divided.

  • Paul

    Jesus is offended by us being divided, yes. What was believed for over 1500 years was suddenly dispensed with by the Protestant reformers because they thought they knew better than the church Christ established himself. People who have broke away from the catholic church that Christ established truly do offend God, he does want us to be one, we all pray for us to be one.
    I ask you to know your history. Research the early church fathers if that is only one thing you will do. If you understand the true nature of the Eucharist and the theology behind it you will understand why those who have cut themselves off from the body of Christ cannot partake in the Eucharist.
    Ignorance of history is a terrible thing. To form an honest opinion and belief in anything you need to know both sides of the story from equal perspectives. I ask you to look at it from the Catholic perspective. It’s for your own benefit. Things will start to make a whole lot of sense to what you currently understand.

    • http://hrugnir.wordpress.com Peter Berntsson

      The Church was not “suddenly” split the first time in the 16th century. Not counting the obvious Gnostic heretics early on, the first real split occured in 431 with the Church of the East, then the huge split in 451 with the Miaphysites, then the second great schism in 1054. Say whatever you want, but don’t pretend like the Reformers caused the first Church split.

      Where I do agree, however, is that the Zwinglian, “memorial” view of the Sacrament, as well as the total rejection of tradition, was more or less invented or at least popularized starting with the Protestant Reformation. But there are many churches who believe in the Real Presence without pretending to know exactly how that occurs in a metaphysical fashion, according to Aristotelian terminology.

      Personally, I hold a view somewhere between the Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox: “It’s body and blood. It’s a mystery. Don’t worry about it, just receieve.”

  • Paul

    I’m not pretending that the reformation was the first split, but it is the split that is reponsible for these types of beliefs. The Orthodox believe the same things as the Catholics, they have apostolic succession and hold the 7 sacraments. The split was more political than dogmatic.
    You should not be receiving the Eucharist if you are not in communion with Peter.
    Look at http://www.theholyeucharist.com/index.php?r=the-holy-eucharist-download and watch the video. It may help your understanding.
    We have a duty to deepen our understanding of our Lord. Researching the early church fathers is imperative. People have fallen so far away from what was originally taught that you end up believing in your own perception of who God is.

    • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

      Paul writes:

      “You should not be receiving the Eucharist if you are not in communion with Peter.”

      Guess that makes you more “Catholic” than the Pope then, huh? The Pope invites the Orthodox to receive at Roman Catholic altars.

      Besides, I strongly suspect that one can be in communion with Peter but not with this Roman successors.

      Got a little secret for ya. Derek doesn’t know it yet, but, being a baptized Christian, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, he has just about guaranteed that he will eventually become either Roman Catholic or Orthodox. Funny how God works in this way.

      You are right about one thing: researching the early Church fathers is imperative. Derek will. The hunger awakened by the Eucharist will lead him to desire that as well.

      You read it here first, Derek. 😉

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/mikepharrison Mike Harrison

    Derek, let me begin by saying I am unabashedly a devout Roman Catholic and I believe you have profaned our sacred Sacrament of Holy Communion. Why? Please read the following from http://www.theworkofgod.org/Library/Apologtc/R_Haddad/TheBread.htm. Then explain why the words our Lord, Jesus Christ, said don’t apply to you. I think you will have it very difficult to argue with Scripture (the Bible) Derek.

    May God bless you and all that take the time to read the following text.

    -Mike

    Holy Eucharist, The Bread of Life
    Catholic Apologetics
    Lumen Verum Apologetics
    The Bread of Life
    A Defence of the Real Presence and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
    by Robert M. Haddad

    The Bread of Life – The Real Presence | The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
    The Work of God – Catholic Apologetics

    ——————————————————————————–

    The Bread of Life
    1. THE REAL PRESENCE
    Objection: “As for the Eucharist, no one believed that the bread and wine changed into the real body and blood of Christ until Paschasius Radbertus, a Benedictine monk in the early 9th century!”

    The Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ under the appearances, or accidents, of bread and wine. Unlike the other Sacraments, it not only bestows grace but contains the Author of Grace Himself. Hence, by giving us His Body and Blood to drink Christ has left us the legacy of His very self: “He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful. He provides food for those who fear him” (Ps. 111 [110], 4-5).

    Christ fulfilled His promise to give us His Flesh and Blood at the Last Supper:

    “Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (St. Matt. 26, 26-28; note also St. Mark 14, 22-24; St. Luke 22, 19-20; 1 Cor. 10, 4-21).

    The Church calls this mysterious change of the bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood Transubstantiation (Lateran IV 1215). The substances of the bread and the wine are changed respectively into the substances of Christ’s Body and Blood, while the accidents (i.e., color, shape, taste, etc.) of the bread and the wine remain unchanged.1

    In the Gospel of St. John chapter 6…

  • http://hrugnir.wordpress.com Peter

    This is actually for FrGregACCA:

    But you are neither Roman Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox…?

  • http://linkedin.com/in/mikeharrison Mike Harrison

    One more reading suggestion for you Derek and anyone interested in learning more about the Catholic faith. There is a very easy to read book about the Catholic faith titled “Basics of the Faith: A Catholic Catechism” by Alan Schreck and published by Servant Books. You should be able to either find or order it at stores like Barnes and Noble.

    For those that would like a more in-depth view of Catholic Dogma and tradition, read the official Catholic catechism, “Catechism of the Catholic Church” published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana. This one might be tougher to find so if you want a copy, send an email to me at mike@colfaxnet.com and I’ll work on it.

    Thank you for reading and considering this post. May God bless you, those you love and your endeavors in all things, especially your spiritual development, which is never finished until you reach Heaven.

    -Mike

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    It’s funny how everyone assumes that I oppose the Catholic doctrine of Transubstatiation when I never said as much. I used to think “yuck” to the idea. But today I don’t take a strong position one way or another.

    I agree with Peter: “It’s body and blood. It’s a mystery. Don’t worry about it, just receieve.”

    I think its odd how it is said to be profane to commune together for Communion when the Apostle Paul said the real profanity is to refuse other Christians that Communion. Division is the greater sin, so why are so many endorsing it?

  • Mike Harrison

    The consecration of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ within the Catholic church is not something to be taken lightly. Our church requires all Catholics to be educated in the Catechism before allowing the reception of the Eucharist. There are good reasons why Christians that don’t subscribe to the Catholic faith and lack instruction should not take communion besides committing sacrilege in the eyes of their fellow Christians that are Roman Catholic as stated below from the website http://www.catholic.com/library/Who_Can_Receive_Communion.asp. Note, relative to an earlier series of posts, it addresses the ability of Eastern Orthodox Christians receiving Communion (they may).

    “Other Christians and Communion

    The guidelines for receiving Communion, which are issued by the U.S. bishops and published in many missalettes, explain, “We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us ‘that they may all be one’ (John 17:21).

    “Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law. . . . ”

    Scripture is clear that partaking of the Eucharist is among the highest signs of Christian unity: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). For this reason, it is normally impossible for non-Catholic Christians to receive Holy Communion, for to do so would be to proclaim a unity to exist that, regrettably, does not.

    Another reason that many non-Catholics may not ordinarily receive Communion is for their own protection, since many reject the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Scripture warns that it is very dangerous for one not believing in the Real Presence to receive Communion: “For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is…

    • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

      Key word: “normally”.

      However, I have to protest that the fulness of the Orthodox-Catholic faith does not reduce to the status of the papacy, which is what this policy really is based on, at least if it applied to the Orthodox, which it is not.

      As to my status: I am vagante Oriental Orthodox.

  • Paul

    Don’t endorse division then Derek, become a Catholic! You can partake in the Eucharist every day then ☺.
    Find out what we truly believe, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, I assure you.