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True Communion - Garth Snider
 

True Communion - Garth Snider

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The Roman Catholic Church is sometimes criticized for clarifying that Protestants should not partake of Holy Communion at Mass. There are significant doctrinal differences between Catholics and ...

The Roman Catholic Church is sometimes criticized for clarifying that Protestants should not partake of Holy Communion at Mass. There are significant doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants as regards not only Holy Communion but also the purpose of the Mass.

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True Communion - Garth Snider True Communion - Garth Snider Presentation Transcript

  • True Communion By W.C. Garth Snider
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • The Roman Catholic Church is sometimes criticized for clarifying that Protestants should not partake of Holy Communion at Mass. There are significant doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants as regards not only Holy Communion but also the purpose of the Mass. Stated simply, Catholics believe that the bread and wine served as Holy Communion is mysteriously transformed into the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharistic Liturgy during Mass. Protestants, generally speaking, do not share in this belief - at least not doctrinally. Consequently, Catholics and Protestants simply disagree on the Christological implications of Holy Communion. Logic then insists that if there is disagreement over the very nature of Holy Communion there is, in actuality, no unity of belief, and therefore no "communion" in the true sense of the word.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Many non - Catholics are proponents of the concept of intercommunion i.e., communion that is open to all confessing Christians regardless of their particular denominational affiliation. The Church concludes that intercommunion is a contradiction, as it does not represent true communion. A commonly expressed sentiment by those discouraged from receiving Holy Communion prior to being "in communion" with the Church, is that they are being unfairly shut out of this "universal" sacrament. The argument runs that if a person truly believes that Jesus is calling him or her to partake in Holy Communion, he or she should be able to do so regardless of his or her particular Christian belief.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • "Communion is communion," they say, and "who are you to deny a believer the right to partake in Holy Communion?" Egalitarian impulses can lead one to take umbrage at being shut out of the supposedly universal sacrament of Holy Communion. But is such reaction consistent with right reason? Is it not plausible the "unfairness" we sense is not accurately "unfairness" but instead a frustration symptomatic of our lack of unity of belief? And is it not equally plausible that when we promote intercommunion we lessen the chances that Christian unity will be realized because of a lack of "true communion" among Christians?
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Before we begin to answer these questions we should first explore exactly what is meant when we use the term "communion". Webster’s Dictionary defines communion as "an act or instance of sharing." This definition in turn gives rise to the definition of communion which specifically incorporates the Christian definition of the sacrament of Holy Communion. But to define communion in such a manner is to engage in a certain degree of tautology and is wholly unsatisfactory. Therefore to understand specifically what we mean when we use the term "communion" we must apply some hermeneutical principles in order to draw forth from our shared Judeo-Christian history the true meaning of "communion."
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Examining the etymology of the word "communion" we find that it is translated from the Greek koinonia. Koinoinia can be defined as a partnership or fellowship. Importantly, koinonia is used nineteen times in most editions of the Greek New Testament. For present purposes, the most important usage of the word in the New Testament is in 1 Corinthians 10:16 (KJV) wherein the English word "communion" is used to represent koinonia. Specifically, St. Paul states "the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of one loaf."
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • For much of the English speaking world the King James Version of the Bible was the primary translation of the Bible in use for almost 400 years. As a result, it is likely that the vernacular of the term "communion" is derivative of the King James Version. This is significant because the language St. Paul uses is undeniably Christological. He speaks not of symbols, but rather uses a word that invokes a partnership or fellowship with both the body and blood of Christ. In the opening clause of 1 Corinthians 10:16 St. Paul says nothing of fellowship or interaction with other Christians; rather, he is speaking specifically of the relationship between the believer and the Lord, and how the two are joined by the consuming of the bread and wine.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • In the words spoken immediately following he states that this fellowship must not only be personal but in partaking of the communion with the body and blood of Christ we necessarily become one with each other at the same time we become one with Christ. Read in context this passage makes clear that there is both a personal and a social aspect of communion - both are necessary parts of the sacramental whole. Both are necessary for believers to be fulfilled and/or completed in the divine corpus in which they believe.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • One cannot analyze the etymology of the word "communion" and ignore the context in which the word gained currency. Any attempt at a common understanding of what is meant by the term "communion" must necessarily assume that most Christians (and for that matter non-Christians) understand communion in light of the Greek word koinoinia. Thus the English term "communion" has a direct linguistic relationship to the Lord's Supper instituted by Christ, and while the term can certainly have a secular meaning it is more than likely pregnant with a specific Christian meaning.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Possibly most important of all is the fact that the term contains a historical, scriptural, and sacramental component which incorporates all Christians into one body through the act of consuming bread and wine in a sacramental context. Thus St. Paul is speaking of a "true communion," and in doing so is passing on to the people of Corinth what the Apostles had learned about the Holy Communion from Jesus Christ himself. But what exactly is "true communion?"
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Although the term "true communion" is not expressly defined by the Church, the teachings of the Church on Holy Communion clearly demonstrate a coherent de facto understanding of "true communion." Stated simply, the definition of true communion requires that the communicants agree on the nature of that which is to be celebrated. Therefore, if Protestants (or Catholics for that matter) think that the bread and wine remain simply bread and wine throughout a Mass (or church service) there is not simply a difference of opinion but a fundamental disagreement on doctrinal teachings. One cannot have a fundamental disagreement on the nature of Holy Communion and still maintain that there is true communion.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • This is in fact what Scripture teaches. St. Paul states in no uncertain terms that Christ is calling all Christians to unity, and most Christians believe that Christ does indeed will Christian unity. All are in agreement that we do not yet have Christian unity. And, one of the more significant - if not the most significant - area in which Christians are not unified surrounds the meaning of Holy Communion.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • If there is no unity of belief, and no "true communion," denying and/or ignoring the difference of belief does not cure the frustration. When Protestants seek to partake of Holy Communion at a Catholic Mass with no desire for true communion, an inherent contradiction occurs which the Church cannot endorse or deny. Hopefully, once one gets past the umbrage of being "left out," one may inquire a little deeper and ask the question "why is this concept of true communion so important to the Catholic Church?"
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • It is insufficient to answer that non-Catholics have no right to demand concessions of a Catholic sacrament. Such an answer is neither going to persuade anyone nor even fully explain the reasons behind the Church’s position. Thus there will never be "true communion" if Catholics simply retort with "that’s the way it is - take it or leave it."
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • In order to fulfill Christ’s admonition that "we all be one," we must be able to explain what we believe and why we believe. Thereafter we must discuss these beliefs with each other with honesty and most importantly with charity. To do anything less is to be less than what Christ is calling us all to be. So how now should Catholics explain the concept of "true communion" and its importance to the Church?
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Let’s look first to the manner in which the Church views her role in human history and her longing for Christian reunification. Christ’s plea for unity in St. John’s Gospel at 12:21 is central to this analysis. The Blessed Disciple writes that Jesus said "that they all may be one, as thou, Father in me, and I in Thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." The Church maintains that "Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning and that Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but that the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 820.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Pope Benedict recently wrote that "sacramental ‘mysticism’ is social in character, for in sacramental communion I become one with the Lord, like all other communicants. As St. Paul says "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we partake of one bread." (1 Cor 10:17). Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus towards unity with all Christians." Benedict XVI, Deus Est Caritas. The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 280.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • The Church’s mission is to forward the cause of unity in order that all Christians are "partaking of one bread." It does so, however, on Christ’s terms, as practiced by His Church since the Last Supper. The consecrated bread and wine is mysteriously transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ. Specifically, Catholics believe that in order for the ordinary bread and wine to become the body and blood of Christ, a duly ordained priest is necessary to bring about this transubstantiation. No layperson has the power to effect this change. Technically speaking when the priest is celebrating the Eucharist he is acting in persona Christi - or in the person of Christ.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Interestingly enough, Martin Luther actually believed in the Real Presence; he just could not agree that the Catholic priest was the instrument of the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Succeeding generations of Protestants, however, have moved further and further away from Luther and now arguably only the Lutherans and the Anglicans believe in anything that approaches the Catholic belief in the Real Presence. Consequently, most Protestants see Holy Communion only as a symbol and do not believe that the preacher or the pastor has any power to effect a mysterious change to the ordinary items of bread and wine.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • The priest has the power to act in persona Christi precisely because of the ecclesiological position into which he has been ordained in the Roman Catholic Church. As successors to the Apostles, the bishops (and by extension the priests) of the Roman Catholic Church have the right and obligation to celebrate the Eucharist instituted by Christ. The celebration of the Eucharist is the primary focus of a priest’s life.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • The purpose of the Mass (what Protestants might refer to as a church service) is not a self - affirming homily or a fire and brimstone sermon; rather, it is to unite the ordinary Catholic in the pew with Jesus Christ in the company of his fellow believers. Whereas many Protestants judge the effectiveness of a church service by the emotions or reasoning that is generated by the singing and the preaching, the Church sees these as modest compliments to the main purpose of the "church service" viz. Holy Communion. Stated simply, Roman Catholics believe that the Eucharist (of which Holy Communion is the liturgical culmination) is the "source and summit of the life and mission of the Church."
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • A well-intentioned Protestant might ask for the Scriptural basis upon which the Church make such a claim. In fact, Catholic belief in the Real Presence is based on the historical practice of the early Church and Christ’s quite clear commandment in the Gospel of St. John, wherein the Lord states
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • You can have no life in yourselves, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood. The man who eats my flesh and drinks my blood enjoys eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. My flesh is real food, my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, lives continually in me, and I in him.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Jesus then put this belief into practice when he instituted Holy Communion at the Last Supper. Wherein at Luke 22:19 Jesus states "Then he took the bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them saying "This is my body, given for you, do this for a commemoration of me".
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • The Roman Catholic Church - as well as the Orthodox community - has held essentially the same belief regarding Holy Communion since the 1st century. We know for certain that St. Ignatius of Antioch in 110 A.D. said of those who hold heterodox opinions that "they abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which flesh suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness raised up again."
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Also, St. Justin Martyr writing in the mid-2nd century said …… For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus; and
    • We call this food Eucharist; and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true…
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • And then there are the comments of St. Athanasius’, who in the 4th century almost single-handedly fought off the Arian heresy ( heresy which denied the Trinity), when he states:
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • So long as prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ. And again, Let us approach the celebration of the mysteries. This bread and wine, so long as the prayers and supplication have not taken place, remain simply what they are. But after the great prayers and supplication have been set forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine - and thus His Body is confected.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • It is important to note that these Early Church Fathers cited above were responsible for transmitting, formulating, and defending - sometimes unto death - many of the dogmatic beliefs that Protestants and Catholics both hold in common.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Catholics and Protestants paper over a significant issue when we pretend that we have a similar exegesis. In fact, we do not have full, true communion of belief and to act otherwise vitiates our professed beliefs. Whether it is a symbol or the actual body and blood of Christ is thus not a detail that can be allowed to be "fudged" just to protect our ecumenical sensibilities. Pope Benedict said as much when he wrote:
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • It is not for us to act as if there were unity where this is not the case. The Eucharist is never a means we can use to any end; it is the gift of the Lord, the heart of the Church herself, and not within our control. It is not a matter of personal friendship here, of the subjective faith, which in any case we have no means of measuring, but of standing within the unity of the one Church and of our humbly waiting for God to grant unity himself.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • “ The Eucharist is a Sacrifice, the presentation of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross." Raztinger, God is Near Us, 44. When belief in the Real Presence is forsaken, the purpose of Holy Communion is inverted - and is inverted in homocentric manner. Removing the Real Presence from Holy Communion leads ineluctably to a diminution in the understanding of the sacrifice made on Calvary. For Catholics, therefore, Holy Communion is not simply a means to worshipping God; rather, Holy Communion is the end to which we are called upon to aspire in rightly ordered worship. Holy Communion is not simply a vehicle of worship; rather, it is in fact the celebration of God’s gift to man in his son Jesus Christ.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Since Holy Communion is God’s gift to man, we distort its meaning when we view it as no more than another manner in which to worship God. It is so much more than that. For Catholics, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is where time and eternity meet, and as such Catholics are called to celebrate the eternal sacrifice of Christ. A Catholic Mass is not simply another "church service," and by extension Holy Communion is not simply a symbolic gesture or alternative form of worship - no matter how reverent, sincere, and heart-felt the gesture and belief may be."
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • So where does this leave the earnest Protestant who simply wants to break bread with his Catholic brethren? Even after understanding the significance of the Church’s position on Holy Communion, he may still be desirous of partaking of Holy Communion while remaining Protestant. Some of these Christians may sense that the Church is "on to something" yet choose to stay outside the Church because of any number of reasons.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Sometimes it is the differences between Catholic culture and Protestant culture - and the attendant difficulties that obtain when one converts from one to the other. Other times it is the attachment to their community that keeps people away from true communion with the Church. Whatever the reason, many times it is these people who are most nonplussed when discouraged from sharing in Holy Communion. Some even decry the teaching as being inconsistent with Jesus’ teachings, and yet another example of the "legalism" in the Church.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • The Church is not unsympathetic to their plight. In fact, she understands full well the attraction of her doctrine on Holy Communion precisely because she holds so dearly the doctrine of the Eucharist which maintains that Christ is made present at each Mass. (What Christian would not want to be in the presence of his Lord?) The Church understands full well the pain precisely because she feels the painful rift within her body.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • It would be very easy for the Church, in an effort to foster Christian unification, to permit non-Catholics who really do believe in the Real Presence to partake of Holy Communion at Mass. But doing so would in the end actually destroy the unity the Church seeks to promote, for were the Church to allow it, she would serve the inherent contradiction that actually destroys unity.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • History gives good counsel on the folly of this type of effort. The Reformation clearly demonstrates the slippery slope that the Church would embark upon should she allow this type of syncretism. Martin Luther never meant to jettison the belief in the Real Presence but that is exactly what happened in certain Protestant denominations once the dogma of the Holy Eucharist was modified. The Church simply cannot permit this to happen. She cannot do so for herself; she cannot do so for her lay faithful; and she cannot do so for all non-Catholics.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Non - Catholics who seek to share in Holy Communion with their Catholic brothers and sisters must realize that such false communion would in time diminish the eternal elements of the Church that they find so attractive in the first instance. It has been nearly 500 years since the Reformation and probably now more than ever the Holy Spirit is reuniting Christians through the "longing and yearning" of scattered Christian souls who wish to enter into "true communion" with the Church. Just in the last ten years the Lutherans and the Catholics have been able to sit down and come to significant agreement on the Real Presence in Holy Communion.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • The Holy Spirit is doing things in the name of Christian unification that would have been unthinkable just fifty years ago. Through the shared prayers of Catholics and Protestants alike, Christians everywhere are returning to the Church, and they are returning not because she has compromised her beliefs but precisely because she has not.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • Examining the etymology of the word "communion" we find that it is translated from the Greek koinonia. Koinoinia can be defined as a partnership or fellowship. Importantly, koinonia is used nineteen times in most editions of the Greek New Testament. For present purposes, the most important usage of the word in the New Testament is in 1 Corinthians 10:16 (KJV) wherein the English word "communion" is used to represent koinonia. Specifically, St. Paul states "the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of one loaf."
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • And for those who have yet to be received back into the Church the very fact that there are more and more Christians who are moving back to a belief in the Real Presence is proof that the Church is correct in requiring "true communion" and rejecting false communion.
  • True Communion - W.C. Garth Snider
    • “ True communion " is the light by which Christians are led back to the table of Christian unity. Only through true communion can we attain the goal of spiritual fulfillment, and only through “ true communion " can we truly be what Jesus Christ wishes for us" that they all may be one."