by Rev. Gerald Ellard, S.J., Ph.D. 1


Chapter XI

Take ye and eat [Matt. Xxvi,26].

REFERENCE has been made several times in these pages to the gradual but profound changes affecting the religious outlook of succeeding ages. In particular a good deal of the sacrificial and Eucharistic atmosphere of the early Church seems remote from us, not only in time, but in concept and feeling. A little puzzled, we ask ourselves how it could be that, while the faith in the Eucharist remained quite unchanged, the Christian mentality toward it could undergo far-reaching changes. How did it come about that we are inclined to regard attendance at Mass as an irksome duty, while it was originally considered as the exercise of the supreme right of the Christian man and woman? Or how was it that the Church was forced to make a matter of law binding under mortal sin the annual reception of Communion, when once men and women, and usually even infant children, communicated at every Mass, and privately in their homes when there was no Mass?

Why Piety Changed. These questions are partly answered by saying, "The piety of the people grew cold and formal, and so these changes resulted." Besides being incomplete, such an explanation is partly incorrect, since there has never been a lack of seraphic saints in the Church. The full truth of the matter must take account of the fact that in the course of time the piety of the people gradually grew different. There is no more important or instructive chapter in the Church's inner history than the beginning of this very process, whereby what is pre-eminently the sacrament of love and union, became invested with attributes of dread and fear. What is really at stake here is the concept of Christ as the Bridge-Builder, the very notion of mediatorial worship of God through the New Man, His Son.

Daily Communion, the Common Thing. In the first centuries Christ's unique position as Mediator of the New Law was the focal point of the Glad Tidings of Salvation. Therein men found an unfailing source of individual strength and peace and "confident access unto God." [Eph. iii,12] The Eucharistic Food united them with God through Christ, and so it was eagerly and ardently eaten on rising every morning. Even though Mass was, as a rule, celebrated but once or twice a week in the earliest ages, Christians kept the Eucharist in their homes and communicated themselves at their morning prayer. Tertullian, in urging upon women not to marry pagans, speaks of the misunderstandings inevitably to arise out of the fact that the pagan husbands will know, but not understand what it is they eat on rising. [Ad Ux.ii,1] The words of St. Hippolytus of Rome about 225, speak volumes by implication: "Let each of the faithful hasten, before eating any other food, to partake of the Eucharist . . and let each be solicitous lest any unbeliever share of it, or that a mouse or any other animal touch it, or that any of it fall [to the ground] and perish." [Apos. Trad. Lxxvii-viii]


Carried in Wicker Baskets. In inveighing against the pagan theaters, at least one preacher spoke of the shamelessness of Christians appearing at them "as they return from the Sacrifice, carrying the Eucharist, as is customary." [De Spectac.,v] In the mural decorations of the catacombs a frequent theme is that of a fish bearing on its back a basket of small loaves, among which one can discern a glass vessel of wine. The fish, of course, stood for Christ, as was explained previously, and the loaves and wine were unquestionably the Eucharistic Species. The Christians were constantly taught to interpret the words, "Give us this day our daily bread," as referring primarily to the Food that had become Christ's Body in their public Sacrifice of thanksgiving. If there is one thing that stands out clearly in the meager records of early Christianity, it is this popular hunger and thirst for the Eucharist as affording "confident access unto God."

The Bridge Broken - or Unused. This primitive attitude lasted unchanged until, at the turn of the fourth century, Arianism appeared in the Orient, fiercely denying the divinity of the Word, and hence of Christ. In the ensuing struggle, one of the wildest and bitterest of the Church's long history, every move made by Arians to insist on the humanity of Christ was parried by a counterstroke of the Catholics emphasizing His divinity. In this process many an old prayer expressive of Christ's mediation, now deemed capable of an Arian interpretation, was changed so as to bring out with unequivocal clarity Christ's divine nature equal with the Father's. Thus, an old form of the common doxology, "Glory to the Father, through the Son . . ." was altered to "Glory to the Father, and to the Son. . . ." When the violence of this storm had passed, the Oriental Churches had developed a quite different attitude toward Christ. Arians no longer worshiped God mediatorially through Christ, for to them Christ was a mere man; Christians, by focusing all attention on the divine nature off Christ, were also losing the practical consciousness of His office of Bridge-Builder. "Now Christ no longer stands by man's side, as the representative of mankind, and no longer as the man, Christ Jesus, and the First-born of His brethren, offers the Sacrifice of mankind to the Triune God. He has, so to speak, crossed over, and is now by God's side, and Himself is the awful and unapproachable God." 2

Origin of "Cultual" Dread. Within a generation this new attitude brought about epoch-making consequences in the primitive outlook toward the Eucharist. It surrounded both Sacrifice and Communion with a sense of awe and dread. Thus, within twenty years of the condemnation of Arianism, we find a Council at Antioch (341), and one at Sardica, in Thrace (343), threatening to cut off Christians from the Church because they had begun to abstain from the reception of Communion at public worship. The famous Catechetical Instructions of St. Cyril of Jerusalem date from the year 348: In them the period of the Canon of the Mass is called "that most awful hour." [xxxiii,iv] This "awfulness" is a note that will echo louder and louder in the preaching of subsequent ages: The Holy Eucharist was in the East fast becoming "the dread Mysteries," at the celebration of which the Christians were bid to stand "in fear and dread." For the reception of the "awful Body" preachers were beginning to find that no preparation really sufficed, and they began attaching hard and oftentimes insupportable conditions to the reception of Communion. So swift were matters moving in the East that at the end of the century, St. John Chrysostom complains at Constantinople:

In vain is the daily Sacrifice, in vain do we stand before the altar, and there is no one to partake: Everyone that partaketh not of the Mysteries is standing here in shameless effrontery. . . .

But almost the next words on the lips of this strict preacher were hardly adapted to bring the people in numbers to the Communion Table.

These things I say to you, not to induce you to come in any which way, but that you should render yourselves worthy to partake. . . . It is sincerity and purity of soul. With these approach at all times, without them, never! [Hom. iii in Ephes.]

Jerome's Influence. The great St. Jerome was a Roman by training, but at this time he had long been a resident in the East, and he was imbued with these Eastern ideas. He was more than once asked by correspondents if they should communicate daily "as the Roman and Spanish churches do." In his replies Jerome "neither praises nor blames the Roman custom," but for the rest, "let his questioners follow the usages of their localities," that is, let them abstain from Communion, if that be the local usage. Moreover, St. Jerome found, as he thought, Scriptural reasons for supporting the hard conditions that were then being attached to the reception of Communion. When we recall that Jerome's authority in matters of Scripture was supreme, it is clear that his influence tended to accelerate the common abstention from Communion.

West Feels Cultual Dread. Before very long this new spirit had penetrated into the West, partly through the spread of Arianism, but probably more by reason of the pilgrimages to the Holy Places. A council at Saragossa, Spain, in 381, found it necessary to excommunicate those who received the consecrated Bread into their hands as usual but refrained from eating it. [Mansi iii,634] How the new ideas filtering in from the East were being combated in the West is clearly shown in many contemporary documents. Probably no passage so briefly and so cogently states the whole case as the lines quoted below. They are from a little treatise On the Sacraments written somewhere in the north of Italy during the episcopacy of the great St. Ambrose at Milan. Some scholars consider them as a stenographic report of Ambrose's sermons.

Give us this day our daily bread. As often as Christ's Blood is shed (it is shed for the remission of sin), I ought daily to receive Him; for since I continually sin, as continually should I drink of His medicine.

For if it is daily Bread, why do you receive it but annually, as the Greeks are wont to do? Receive daily what will daily help you. So live that you may be fit to receive daily. He who is unfit for daily Communion is equally unfit to receive but once a year.

St. Augustine in Africa, St. Hilary of Poitiers, France, St. Zeno of Verona, Italy, and other great pastors of this time were protecting their local churches from the new spirit. How one's own attitude may be misinterpreted is well illustrated by an incident in the life of St. Augustine. On being asked by a certain correspondent just what the spirit of the Church in this matter of frequent Communion was, Augustine composed a very gracious answer in which he set down the customs of various churches.

Some receive the Body and Blood of the Lord every day; others on certain days only; in some places no day passes on which the Sacrifice is not offered; in others on Saturday and Sunday only, in others on Sunday only.

Augustine goes on to offer a kindly interpretation for those who received seldom as well as to commend those who received daily. The one party resembles Zachaeus of the Gospel, who received our Lord rejoicing into his house; [Luke xix,6] the other is likened to the centurion, who thought himself unworthy of that honor. [Matt.viii,6] Unfortunately, at a later date, this letter was quoted and requoted as showing Augustine's approval of a rare reception of Communion.

The Barbarian Invasions. When matters stood thus, the fifth century ushered in the barbarian invasions. In a generation the whole of the Western Empire, barring the city of Rome, and a few such "islands," was overrun by semicivilized people, who were fanatical, if ignorant, Arians. The work of winning them to Catholicity lasted over a century. It should not, therefore, be very surprising that when the new nations arose, they were pretty generally imbued with the "fear-and-dread" attitude toward the Holy Eucharist.



The text at the bottom of the above graph reads as follows:

"This graph, of course, is only a rough approximation; it would be impossible for lack of materials to represent the case with complete accuracy. But these tables are based on several careful studies, and are, no doubt, correct in the main. The dotted line indicates that the relation of coin-offerings to the sacrifice is not generally known.

The Losses Heavy. The result was, that with the exception of Rome and a few such centers of the old traditions. Communion was ceasing to be in the minds of the people the Return-Gift of the Sacrifice. This led to the obscuring of the popular notion of sacrifice and sacrificial worship. Fast fading, too, was the concept of the Eucharist as the Christians' bond of union. Suppose we here sketch the main stages in this obscuring of the sacrificial concept by noting the gradual disappearance of the Offertory procession, that solemn external act by which the people's sacrificial purpose was expressed.

One of the first manifestations of the spirit of dread and fear in Eucharistic worship, as we saw, was that whereby people received the Species in their hands as before but did not communicate. In other words, they still offered their own sacrificial gifts, but they hesitated to accept the Return-Gift of God. Since the individual's offering of a gift is, after all, the very basis of the whole sacrificial system of worship, this idea would naturally persist even a long time after a feeling of unworthiness had constrained the worshiper not to accept God's Gift in return. But by the time Communion had come to be received only three or four times a year, several ominous phenomena make a simultaneous appearance.

Sunday Mass, an Obligation. In place of the early Christians' eagerness to be present at the Sacrifice, lest their absence should "cause the Body of Christ to be short a member" [Didascalia xiii] Christians now had to be compelled by a precept under sin to assist at Mass. Again, preachers now felt it necessary to tell the people that they must not leave the church after the sermon, but that Catholic worship was really the Sacrifice. Lastly, from this time on the people are being urged and urged with endless repetition to make the bread-and-wine offerings at the altar. The first traces of positive legislation on all these points are found in the south of France, where, just then, the spirit of the Orient had entered by way of the monasticism imported from the East. The precept of assistance at Sunday Mass, and particularly that of making sacrificial offerings, was destined to echo wearily through the acts of Church councils for centuries.

Gift-Processions Repeatedly Enjoined. These first conciliar enactments had some temporary effect in checking the disastrous decline of the sacrificial concept. But at the end of the sixth century, which was at Rome just the golden age of St. Gregory the Great, we find these decrees being reaffirmed in new French councils. Throughout the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries these canons are enjoined again and again, a clear sign that, despite all efforts, pastors could not bring their people to maintain the Offertory procession. When things had reached the pass when men no longer brought gifts, it was urged upon their womenfolk to make the offerings for themselves and their male relatives.

In this whole matter one must not think of these offerings as made for the support of the churches or clergy. That type of offering was being made, and generously. What is here in question wholly concerns sacrificial gifts, the visible tokens of self-dedication publicly offered to God and in the transubstantiation linked up with the self-oblation of Christ upon the cross.

Communion Ever Rarer. But along with these repeated urgings to continue the sacrificial gifts, there were parallel enactments surrounding the reception of the Eucharist with conditions which made it extremely difficult for people living in the world. The two tendencies develop side by side. Communion comes to be regarded as a spiritual reward to be won at great cost on the three or four principal feasts, and the gift procession dwindles until it is no more a public, social affair, but an occasional sight, a relic come down from times long past.

Unleavened Bread Adds New Difficulty. In the period 800-1000 the use of unleavened bread at the altar was spreading throughout the West. This was a further hindrance to the bringing of gifts, for now ordinary table bread would no longer serve for the offering. About the year 1200 money first began to be brought to the altar as a substitute for the old gifts of bread and wine. For a time this made the gift-procession easier, and in places helped to restore it for a while.

Yearly Communion Obligatory. By this date the reverential awe surrounding the reception of Communion had brought it about that even the greatest saints, and whole religious orders in the first fervor of their foundation, communicated only three or four times a year. Many people living in the world put off Communion for years at a time. In the face of these conditions, the Lateran Council in 1215 enjoined the annual Easter Communion under pain of excommunication (the penalty of excommunication has since been removed). The same Council spoke of priests "who celebrate Mass only three or four times a year."

Opinions of Theologians. This was the age of the great theologians, and it is interesting to see how they face the question of frequent Communion. St. Thomas sees too clearly to doubt the lawfulness of frequent or even daily Communion, but finds that "in the case of the majority of men there are so many obstacles to the [requisite] devotion . . . [that] it is not praiseworthy to receive this Sacrament daily." [S.T. III.Q.lxxx, a.10] His celebrated contemporary, St. Bonaventure, leaves the burden of final decision to another, but clearly indicates on what strict principles the judgment would rest.

Should one receive Communion frequently? If one finds oneself in the state of the primitive Church, one should: but if you find yourself in the state of the Church in its last stage, namely cold and sluggish, you should go rarely; if in a middle state, one should go from time to time, and sometimes stay away to learn reverence, and sometimes go to be inflamed with love. [In IV Sent. Dist. xii,punct.ii,a.2,q.2.]

This age reached the lowest point in the history of the Eucharist as Communion. But let us not forget that the same age witnessed a deep and widespread enthusiasm for the Blessed Sacrament in non-sacrificial forms of devotion. It was St. Thomas who composed the marvelous hymns and Office for the Feast of Corpus Christi then recently instituted. Stamped with the spirit of the age, the newer forms of devotion were non-mediatorial in character: practically speaking, they leave the Blessed Trinity as such quite out of consideration.

End of Gift-Processions. As one approaches the sixteenth century, the Offertory procession becomes rarer and rarer. Whereas, at the beginning of the fifteenth century, synods could still prescribe eight such processional gift-offerings of money annually, by the end of that century they could enjoin no more than four. Then came the religious upheavals of the sixteenth century. These swept away all but the last vestiges of the old gift-processions. In our day a few faint traces of the old usage remain as ceremonies on certain high occasions. When a bishop is consecrated, for example, he makes an offering of two candles, two miniature barrels of wine, and two loaves of bread. At a papal Mass for a canonization, and at a priest's ordination Mass, there is likewise a gift-offering made at the altar. In some rural districts of Germany a gift-procession of money-offerings is made at funerals, but these offerings are for other Masses, not for the one being celebrated. In the Cathedral of Milan on a few feast days ten old men and ten old women, clad in garments of an age long past, present gifts of bread and wine at the altar. But to all intents and purposes the once universal offering of bread and wine as sacrificial gifts has disappeared from Christian worship. Our "Offertory collections" are made directly for the support of the Church: the internal connection of gifts with the Sacrifice is seldom made clear.

Turn of the Tide. As the gift-procession tapered off toward disappearance, the restoration of Communion as something to be received slowly progressed. In this matter as in others the pontificate of Innocent III (1198-1216) was a turning point in history. After the Lateran Council under his presidency had prescribed the reception of Communion once annually as a minimum, the ideal of more and more frequent, even daily, Communion, again came to the fore. St. Catherine of Siena, one of the most influential women the church has known, was with papal approval a daily communicant. Particularly in Italy and in the sphere of the Spanish Dominicans the frequentation of the Holy Table was slowly spreading. Thus a Eucharistic springtime, as far as the reception of Communion was concerned, was under way before the outbreak of the sixteenth-century Protestant revolts. In the face of that great apostasy this preaching was continued with renewed zeal. The members of the newer religious institutes, the Theatines, the Capuchins, the Oratorians) and the Jesuits brought this movement to the masses, so that, as was said of St. Philip Neri's church at Rome, "every morning looked like Easterday." St. Ignatius Loyola's Book of the Spiritual Exercises, than which in God's Providence there was scarcely a more timely instrument in effecting the Catholic Counter-Reform, embodied certain rules for enabling one "to follow as we ought the true mind of the Militant Church." Conspicuous among these was the injunction: "To praise . . . the reception of the Most Holy Sacrament once a year, and much more every month, and much better every week." The full mind of the Saint in this matter was manifested in a letter to a Spanish nun in 1943:

. . . As to communicating every day, let us recall that in the primitive Church all communicated daily, and from that time to this there is no order or writing of our holy mother, the Church, or of her holy doctors, scholastic or positive, forbidding those whose devotion so prompts them, to receive Communion every day. Then, too, the blessed St. Augustine says that he neither praises nor blames those who communicate daily, adding elsewhere that he exhorts all to communicate every Sunday. In another passage, speaking of the most blessed Body of Christ Our Lord, he says: "This is daily Bread: live therefore in such wise as to be able to receive it daily."

All this being so, even if there were not at hand so many indications of good, and so many wholesome motions of grace, there is the criterium of the testimony of a good conscience: To wit, if you are persuaded, first of all, that it is licit in Our Lord, since you are free from known mortal sins or what you may regard as such; then, if you judge that your soul is advanced and inflamed by love of your Creator and Lord; then, if communicating with such an intention, and finding out by experience that this sacred and celestial Food gives you nourishment, peace of soul, and lastly, if persevering in this practice, you advance in God's greater service, worship and glory, then, without any doubt it is allowed and it is the better thing for you to receive Communion every day. [Mon. Ign.Ep.73.]

Council of Trent. With half or more of its entire membership lost through defections, the Militant Church mustered its spiritual forces in the great Council of Trent (1945-63), wherein the whole economy of salvation was reaffirmed, original and personal sin, justification, the Sacraments, etc. Of the Tridentine definitions three points only need concern us just now. First of all, justification, described as "the translation from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ," gives the "new man" vital contact with the life-force of Christ, [Col. i. 12]

. . . since Jesus Christ Himself, as the Head [acting] on the members, and as the Vine [vivifying] the branches, ceaselessly communicates a life-force to the justified, and this life-force always precedes, accompanies and follows their every good action. [Eph. iv,15 John xv, 5 Sess. vi. 1547]

Again, in speaking of the reasons that prompted Christ to institute the Sacrament of the Altar, the conciliar Fathers touch this same note of social solidarity:

He [Christ] wished [this Sacrament] . . . to be a symbol of that one body whereof He is the head, and to which He would fain have us as members united by the closest bond of faith, hope and charity. [I Cor. xi,3 Sess. xiii. 1551]

Most pertinent to our present consideration is Trent's handling of the Mass, and the relation of Communion to integral sacrificial worship. The true doctrine, the ultimate goal, and the temporary, regretful acquiescence in current customs are all clearly expressed in this paragraph:

The sacred and most holy Synod would fain indeed that, at each Mass, the faithful who are present should communicate, not only in spiritual desire, but also by the sacramental participation of the Eucharist, that thereby a more abundant fruit may be derived to them from this most holy Sacrifice: but not, therefore, if this be not always done, does it condemn, as private and unlawful, but approves of, and therefore commends those Masses in which the priest alone communicates sacramentally; since those Masses ought also to be considered as truly common; partly because the people communicate spiritually thereat; partly also because they are celebrated by a public minister of the Church, not for himself only, but for all the faithful who belong to the body of Christ. [Sess. xxii, 1562]

To interpret its own decrees, the Council of Trent ordered that an official commentary, the so-called Catechism of the Council of Trent (published 1566), be put into the hands of all priests. This most authoritative document mirrors the program of the Catholic Counter-Reform for the restoration of the reception of Communion. Thus, we read:


Let not the faithful imagine that it is enough to receive the Body of the Lord once a year only, in obedience to the decree of the Church. They should approach oftener; but whether monthly, weekly, or daily, cannot be decided by any fixed universal rule. St. Augustine, however, lays down a most certain norm: Live in such manner as to be able to receive every day. [II, Euch. a.14]

Thus, the Church was engaged with the restoration of Communion: it was hoped, and we see this hope realized in our own day, that time would effect the popular recovery of full sacrificial-mindedness, the mediatorial position of Christ, and the internal relation of Communion as a part of Mass.

Blight of Jansenism. Hardly had the primitive attitude toward the Eucharist begun to take possession of the collective consciousness of Europe, when a backwash of the spirit of exaggerated awe again swept over Christendom. This was the application to the Eucharist of Jansenist ultra-rigorist views, and was brought to a head by the publication of a treatise On Frequent Communion by Anthony Arnault in 1643. By an unhappy alliance Jansenism became linked with State polity in France and subsequently in other Bourbon courts, such as Spain and Portugal. Almost two centuries elapsed before this corrosive element could be entirely eliminated. In that long and sometimes very bitter conflict progress toward daily Communion as the goal for all Catholics marked slow advancement.

Pope Leo XIII. In our modern age events move more rapidly, even in the realm of the spiritual realities here in question. In 1902 the great Pope Leo XIII published an encyclical letter on the Most Holy Eucharist. This gave the coup de grace to the Jansenist position:

Away then with the widespread but most mischievous error . . . that the reception of the Eucharist is in a manner reserved for those narrow-minded persons (as they are deemed) who rid themselves of the cares of the world in order to find rest in some kind of professedly religious life. For this gift, than which nothing can be more excellent, or more conducive to salvation, is offered to all those, whatever their office or dignity may be, who wish - as every one ought to wish - to foster in themselves that life of divine grace whose goal is the attainment of the life of blessedness with God. [Mirae caritatis]

No message from Pope Leo went far in its unfolding without deploring "frequent disturbances and strife between class and class: arrogance, oppression, fraud on the part of the more powerful: misery, envy and turbulence among the poor." [Ibid.] The Vicar of Christ was persuaded that against such evils it is vain to seek remedies in legislation, or any device of merely human prudence. But the remedy was to be the social appreciation of the Eucharist:

All of which is confirmed by the declaration of the Council of Trent that Christ left the Eucharist in His Church "as a symbol of that unity and charity whereby He would have all Christians mutually joined and united . . . a symbol of that one body of which He is Himself the Head, and to which He would have us, as members, attached by the closest bonds of faith, hope, and charity." [Sess. xiii] The same idea had been expressed by St. Paul when he wrote:

We many are one bread, one body.
for we all partake of the one Bread. [I Cor. x,17]

Very beautiful and joyful too is the spectacle of Christian brotherhood and social equality which is afforded when men of all conditions, gentle and simple, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, gather round the holy altar, all sharing alike in this heavenly banquet. And if in the records of the Church it is deservedly reckoned to the special credit of its first ages that the multitude of believers were of one heart and soul, there can be no shadow of doubt that this immense blessing was due to their frequent meetings at the divine table; for we find it recorded of them: [Acts iv.32]

They persevered in the teaching of the Apostles
and the fellowship,
the breaking of Bread and the prayers. [Acts ii,42]

Leo's determination "to bend all our efforts to that point, that the frequent use of the Eucharist be widely revived among Catholic peoples," [Mirae caritatis] soon issued in the decrees of Pius X, 1905, that all Catholics, the world over, of every condition and walk of life, provided only they have a right intention and be free from known mortal sin, must be allowed to communicate when present at Mass. Indeed under Pius X, as a subsequent chapter will disclose more in detail, the papal program was broadened out to include the most active possible participation in the Mass, of which communicating is but the main feature. Under Pope Pius XI the movement has reached full circle, when the advocacy of integral Eucharistic worship begins by dedication of self to God in the symbol of the sacrificial-gift. Centuries had elapsed since the Father of Christendom addressed to all his children such a message as this from the Encyclical On Reparation to the Sacred Heart:

The more our oblation and sacrifice of self resemble the sacrifice of Christ, in other words the more perfect the immolation of our self, and of our passions . . . the more abundant are the fruits of propitiation and expiation which we receive for ourselves and others. . . . To this most august Eucharistic Sacrifice ministers and faithful must join the offering of themselves as victims "living, holy, well-pleasing to God." [Rom. Xii,1] Therefore St. Cyprian did not hesitate to say: "The Sacrifice of Our Savior is not celebrated with the requisite sanctity if our own offering if our sacrifice of self do not correspond with His Passion." [Ep. Lxiii Mis. Redemptor 1928]

Summary. As a consequence of the widespread Arian heresy, Christians in their worship so emphasized the divinity of Christ, that His position as Bridge-Builder, between God and men, so far as piety is concerned, was popularly obscured. The resultant relationship induced feelings of awe and dread, which began by keeping people away from Communion, and ended by obscuring the very concept of sacrificial worship. In the Catholic revival of modern times the old ideas are being rapidly recovered.

Eleventh-Century Source Material

(Although repeating the familiar teaching of the Eucharist as the bond of the mystical Body, Peter Damian does not urge the reception of Communion in this passage from his book, THE LORD BE WITH YOU.)

The Sacrifice Offered on Our Altars is That of Women Alike and Men. That is the reason why, in the very celebration of the Mass, is said: "Be mindful, 0 Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids," and, as is added shortly "for whom we offer, OR who offer up to Thee, this sacrifice of praise." These words clearly show that the Sacrifice of praise is offered by all the faithful, not men only, but women also, although it is seen to be offered by one priest in a special manner. What he holds in his hands presenting unto God, that the whole multitude of the faithful by their devout intentions commends and offers. This is further shown again when it is said, "We therefore beseech Thee, 0 Lord, graciously to accept this oblation of our servitude and that of Thy whole family." It is as clear as light in these words that the Sacrifice put on our holy altars by the priest is .the joint gift of the entire family of God.

The Apostle openly declares this unity of the Church, when he says, "We many are one body, one Bread." [I Cor. x,17] So great is the unity of the Church in Christ, that the bread of the Body of Christ is one throughout the whole world, and one is the chalice of His Blood. For just as the Divinity of the Word is one, which fills the universe, so, even though the Body is consecrated in different places and on many days, there is but one Body of Christ. And as the bread and wine are really changed into the Body of Christ, so all who worthily receive It in the Church, become beyond all doubt the one body of Christ, as He Himself saith;

He that eateth My Flesh
and drinketh My Blood,
the same abides in Me
and I in him. [John vi,57]

If therefore we are all one body of Christ, and, although we seem to be separated by corporeal appearances, we cannot be separated from one another, as long as we remain in Him. There is no disadvantage that I see in abiding always in this symbol of individual unity, and one and all holding the common custom of the Church. For when I alone speak the common words of the Church, I show myself to be one with her, and testify that the Spirit really abides in me. And if lam truly her member, it is but proper that I promote the well-being of my "whole."

Topics for Further Discussion;

The propriety of receiving Communion fasting.

As the temptations surrounding youth today are more evident and alluring than since the ages of paganism, so, too, are the sacramental helps of the Church.

Since all Christians are to be urged to communicate daily, the moral responsibility of collegiate-trained lay people in this matter.

The dogmatic and social values of reviving the thought connection between the offering made at Mass and intrinsic participation in the Sacrifice.

The effects of Pius X's recommendations in America, where older people in certain localities object to (a) children receiving Communion before the age of twelve; (b) frequent, especially daily, Communion for lay people. What arguments could be adduced, besides the Pontiff's pronouncements, to make them change their attitude?


K. Adam, Christ Our Brother (New York: Macmillan, 1931); "Through Christ Our Lord."
G. Dix, A Detection of Aurnbries (Westminster: Dacre) 1942), "Reverence for the Reserved Sacrament," pp. 42-68: The author is an Anglican.
J. B. Ferreres, The Decree on Daily Communion (St. Louis: Herder, 1910), "Historical Sketch," pp. 34-102.
J. C. Hedley, The Holy Eucharist (New York: Longmans, Green, 1907); "On Frequent Communion," pp. 129-146.
J. C. Husslein, "Communion in the Early Church," The Ecclesiastical Review (81), 1929, pp. 491-509.
E. King, "Holy Communion in the Early Church," The Month (108), 1906, pp. 1-13.
J. Kramp, Eucharistia, Essays on Eucharistic Liturgy and Devotion (St. Paul: Lohmaim, 1926); "The History of Eucharistic Adoration," pp. 111-157.
----- The Liturgical Sacrifice of the New Law (St. Louis: Herder, 1926);
    "The Notion of Sacrifice and Christian Holiness," pp. 201-214.

  1. "Christian Life and Worship", by Rev. Gerald Ellard, S.J., Ph.D., The Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, Seventh Printing - 1947.
    Fr. Ellard was Professor of Liturgy, St Louis University School of Divinity. He wrote the Author's Forword in 1933 at St Mary's College, St Mary's, Kansas.

  2. K. Adam, Christ Our Brother (New York: Macmillam, 1931), p.49.

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