Browsing Pastor's Notes

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the last few months, I’ve fielded the following question a number of times: “Father, when is the wine coming back?” The simple answer ‘at least, not until the Archbishop grants permission.’ A few dioceses in the USA have resumed the distribution of the Precious Blood to the laity, but they are more the exception, not the rule, at present. I also know that this is a topic that the Archbishop has been asked about himself, quite frequently. So, it is something he has thought about with care. I also think it is worth noting that the distribution of the Precious Blood as commonly practiced in the USA prior to the C19 shutdown was itself more an exception than the rule in the universal Catholic Church around the world. Most places throughout the world did not offer this practice. For example, in my classmates’ diocese in southern India, the Precious Blood was only offered on special occasions (Ordinations, First Holy Communions, Weddings, perhaps Christmas & Easter) and then only by intinction. Intinction is when the priest or deacon takes a host, dips in in the Precious Blood and then places the Holy Communion directly on the recipient’s tongue. That is the typical and normative manner of reception of both the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion throughout most of the world. Practically, this had to do with the cost and access of quality wine to local parish communities in rural underdeveloped areas. The practice in the USA and a few western countries is the outlier. We don’t realize this because it’s what we are most familiar. Similarly, few if any Papal Masses had provided both Species (both the Body & the Blood of Christ) as a rule. I don’t say this in order to downplay, disrespect, or divert the question coming from faithful Catholics who long for every greater intimacy with Christ by the restoration of normalcy in a non-normal world. I mention it for means of education.

I admit, when people ask me about the “wine”, it can make me cringe a little. Our words matter. They matter a great deal! How we speak about the tremendous gift of the Eucharist matters. While it is common parlance to speak of receiving the ‘bread and the wine’, that is not what we are receiving at all. Yes, it certainly looks, tastes, smells, acts like bread and wine, but the ‘It’ is really a “Who”… who is truly the Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity of Jesus Christ, truly present. When someone ask about receiving the wine, what is meant by the question is ‘when with the Archbishop restore the indult to permit the laity to receive the Precious Blood of our Lord at Holy Communion along with the reception of the Body of Christ?’ That’s a mouth full! But you see, it’s no longer wine when the laity ‘receive it’. After the Consecration, ‘It’ is the Precious Blood. In part, this is what is meant by Transubstantiation. The inner substance/essence of the wine is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the agency of the bishop/priest ordained to carry out Christ’s Mandatum to “Do this in memory of Me.” This change is forever, permanently changing into the real, true, and sacramental Presence of the Risen Lord. Simply asking about the wine, while convenient and not intended to be sacrilegious, shows a certain coarseness to the Lord’s True Presence. It’s not wine; it’s now the Precious Blood of Christ.

The request and the question do show a sense of what is important. As the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM, the governing instructions for how to celebrate Mass) point out: “281. Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it is distributed under both kinds. For in this form the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident and clear expression is given to the divine will by which the new and eternal Covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord, as also the relationship between the Eucharistic banquet and the eschatological banquet in the Father’s Kingdom.” The GIRM continues: “282. Sacred pastors should take care to ensure that the faithful who participate in the rite or are present at it are as fully aware as possible of the Catholic teaching on the form of Holy Communion as set forth by the Ecumenical Council of Trent. Above all, they should instruct the Christian faithful that the Catholic faith teaches that Christ, whole and entire, and the true Sacrament, is received even under only one species, and consequently that as far as the effects are concerned, those who receive under only one species are not deprived of any of the grace that is necessary for salvation” (Emphasis added in both quotations). So while, there may be a healthy longing, there is no withholding of saving grace.

+ Nothing Less than saints for the Holy Family of God. +

Holy Family, Saintly Father, Blessed Mother, Divine Son, Pray for us.

~ Fr Jeremy M. Gries


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