Thursday, February 18, 2010
ASHES IMPOSED, HOLY COMMUNION RECEIVED
Well, yesterday at St. Joseph Church in Macon, it was like Christmas and Easter. We had about 150 at the 6:30 AM Mass, 400 at 8:00 AM, the two school Masses were packed with students and others, the 5:00 PM Mass was packed to standing room capacity, about 600 and just a little less than that at 7:00 PM.
There were many young people of college age present. Along with those there were many others that I seldom see. I thought perhaps a convention was in the city that brought in an influx of Catholics for some reason. No, for the most part, the strangers were "ACE" Catholics (I just thought of this up now, has anyone heard this acronym?) ACE Catholics stands for "ashes, Christmas, Easter" Catholics! Am I really the first to use this?
But as I look at Vice President Joe Biden's mark of repentance on his forehead, and good for him that he wore it, it could be both politically advantageous as well as disadvantageous, I thought to myself that ashes are actually "imposed" upon the person who presents himself for these. Holy Communion, however, is never imposed, Christ must be "received." I hope the ashes on the Vice President indicates a true repentance of his pro-choice political stance. I hope he went to confession. I hope that he also received Holy Communion thus in a state of grace.
At all the Masses yesterday where we had so many ACE Catholics, all of whom had ashes imposed on their forehead, I also noticed that all of them also came forward to receive our Lord in Holy Communion and for the most part piously so. But I could not but wonder if the sacrament of Penance had been a part of this marvelous show of ACE Catholics yesterday and their seemingly pious reception of Holy Communion. Or was there a disconnect between the sign of the ashes imposed on their forehead, meaning they are repentant sinners, and their actual reception of our Lord in Holy Communion, meaning they were truly in a state of grace as a result of the Sacrament of Penance? Only God is the judge on this one, we can only wonder.
In a sense, though, while ashes are imposed and Holy Communion is never imposed, the person presenting themselves for ashes must receive them. The efficacy of the act of receiving either the ashes or the Most Holy Eucharist lies within the person who receives. For ashes, if there is no true repentance and a desire to return to the Sacrament of Penance as the normal means to express sorrow, repentance, receive penance and absolution, then the act of being marked with ashes is less than meritorious on the part of the person receiving. The same can be said about the unworthy reception of our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Depending on the state of the sinner receiving, it can either be meritorious or an added mortal sin.
Finally, I must comment on the plurality of ways Catholics receive Holy Communion in the hand. It still shocks me that even those who should know better, continue to snatch, cup or one hand this option that I have thoroughly catechized about in terms of the correct way. I guess people just don't listen or missed Mass on the Sunday I catechized about it. What to do?!
The correct way, by the way, to receive our Lord on the palm of the hand is clearly enunciated in the American Bishops' Adaptation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal dated June 14, 2001:
“41 Holy Communion under the form of bread is offered to the communicant with the words "The Body of Christ." The communicant may choose whether to receive the Body of Christ in the hand or on the tongue. When receiving in the hand, the communicant should be guided by the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem: "When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost." (51)
Shall I tattoo it on the palm of every hand, (or maybe "brand it") that is stuck out for our Lord? Now that would be an "IMPOSITION!"