As we watch the world struggling to come to terms with a new challenge, we too are making adjustments in our worship and habits. Every change we make is done as thoughtfully as we can out of love for our neighbors and our community. And, inevitably, change generates thoughts and ideas and questions. Over this next season I would LOVE it if you would take some time to reflect on how you are processing these changes. Here's the first in the series - Becky (who is a PhD student at Catholic) reflecting on taking just the bread only at communion last week...
It’s not very often that something I’ve studied closely has application for the church today, so I’d like to offer a few thoughts on the doctrine of concomitance. While I could write an entire academic book on the topic, especially its development in the 13th century, I’ll try to make this digestible (haha!) for those of you who are not working on a PhD in theology.
The eucharistic doctrine of concomitance means that the whole Christ, including his body and blood, his humanity and divinity, are in each kind or element of the eucharist. Whether bread or wine, Christ is present in each element when it is consecrated. While this doctrine developed relatively late in the history of theology, it’s ultimately a consequence of a robust Christology. The risen Christ is still human just as much as he is divine, and wherever Christ is, he’s there in his entirety. If we claim that Christ is truly present in the elements of the Eucharist, we must necessarily claim, by logical consequence, that he’s there in his entirety in each element, because it would defy reason that Christ be present in the bread without his blood, or present in the wine without his body. Wherever Christ is, he is whole.
When we receive in one kind, we may rest assured that we are receiving the whole Christ. And this has powerful implications, not just for our situation in light of the coronavirus outbreak, but in other ways as well.
Two years ago, my very good friend Rob was diagnosed with a Grade IV brain stem glioma. The diagnostic surgery left him paralyzed on one side of his body, and unable to speak or swallow. Yet Rob was still able to receive the Eucharist: a few drops of consecrated wine on his tongue. It struck me then, and strikes me again now, how Christ descends to us to meet us where we are in the Eucharist. Rob was able to meet the living Christ there in his hospital bed, and it was profoundly comforting to those who loved him to know that Christ was with him in the unique mystery of the Eucharist.
Though we are only partaking of the bread for now, we can rest assured that Christ still meets us in his entirety. We’ll still receive all the benefits and blessings that come with partaking in the sacrament. We can be faithful to the tradition and still protect the vulnerable among us.