In the video series, The Mandalorian, we learn early on that the title character lives by a strict rule. He believes that to be Mandalorian means you never remove your helmet. It is the way.
In one episode, the Mandalorian seems unsure of how to answer a question asked, “What’s the rule? Is it you can’t take off your Mando helmet, or you can’t show your face? There is a difference.”
In the last 20 years, I have journeyed from lapsed to devout Catholic. As my desire to draw closer to Jesus and to worship Him reverently grew, my way of participating at Mass did as well.
I had learned through the teaching of the Catechism:
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.” (1324)
The Impact of the Pandemic
My rule of worship is to celebrate Holy Mass daily, veil, and up until the restrictions, receive the Eucharist on my tongue.
The pandemic and subsequent church restrictions threw me into turmoil. To suddenly be stripped of how I worship affronted my Catholic identity. I questioned the authority that closed the churches, moved the Holy Mass to virtual and granted dispensation from receiving the Eucharist.
If the Church proclaims the Eucharist is Jesus Christ, I anguished, how can we be denied Him?
A Challenge at Confession
During Confession, I spoke my anger and the priest asked me a question, which like the Mandalorian, I was not sure how to answer. He asked, “Is the Eucharist a gift or a right?” He could have added, “There is a difference.”
Father challenged me to see that though the way the Mass and the other Sacraments are being offered has changed, they are still being offered. He reminded me that the Church permits receiving the Eucharist in the hand and Spiritual Communion for people unable to attend Mass in-person. He asked me, “Don’t you think God knew this pandemic was coming and made the necessary provisions for us?”
The Mandalorian chooses to suspend his rule to achieve a greater good: to receive ‘the child’ back into his possession and care. My rule of worship, that centers on receiving the Eucharist on the tongue, has greatly served in helping me grow in reverence to God. If I suspend my rule, I feel I will offend God, but if I stick by this rule, I will not be able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Which is the greater good?
Pondering Father’s question, I have discovered that though they are different, the Eucharist is both gift and right.
Gift and Right
Eucharist, which comes from the Greek word, eucharistia, means thankfulness; gratitude. Jesus comes to us as Gift through the Eucharist. In a devotional reflection this is clearly and beautifully stated, God dwells among His people in the flesh of Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem of old, present in the Eucharist of our day. My focus should not be on if I am worthy, but in believing that He is. I could fast forty days, pray all night and still not be worthy to receive Him. And in reflecting on my rule, I have to admit my tongue is a greater cause of offense than my hands.
The Eucharist is also a right; just not ours. Jesus has a right through His Life given, Passion offered, and Promise kept to claim our unwavering faithfulness in being in Communion with Him. Because of His great respect for our free will, He will never demand His right nor force His claim. He waits for us. What He desires is not my worthiness as much as my free will choice to receive Him into my life.
My Lord and My God
For the greater good, temporarily I hope, I have chosen to suspend my rule of worship and receive the Eucharist in the hand. I have added a quick kneel while the person in front of me receives. On my knees I quietly address Him, “My Lord and God,” and then rise to receive our King in the ‘throne’ of my hand and into where He desires to dwell . . . in me.
Whatever rule of worship we adopt, our Catholic identity is to be a Eucharistic people. In his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Saint Pope John Paul II writes:
We can say that each of us not only receives Christ, but also that Christ receives each of us, (Ch 2, 22).
It is the way.
Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.