Wednesday, March 30, 2011


The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life (CCC-1324). Catholics consider the Eucharist or Holy Communion as a Sacred Sacrament and Sacrifice and believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The bread and wine are consecrated and consumed with the firm faith that they have become the body and blood of Jesus {Matthew 26: 26-28, Mark 14: 22-24, Luke 22: 19-20, 1Corinthians 11: 23-25}. As we receive the body and blood of Jesus, we are spiritually nourished and brought closer to God {John, 6: 53-58}.

The practice in a particular church was that those who wished to receive the Communion should come in a queue, make a bow as a sign of reverence and stand with reverence with the tongue stuck out so that the priest can place the Blessed Sacrament on the tongue of the recipient.

There was a very popular, active and senior member of the parish who was regular in attending the Holy Mass on all Sundays. He was well-known among the community and was the leader of several pious organizations. But he was a habitual drunkard.

One Sunday, this man was seen in the queue to receive the Eucharist. The Vicar observed his unusual gesticulations and unsteady gait and was sure that he was heavily drunk. The priest was confused. He considered it a sin and a sacrilege to administer the Holy sacrament to an obviously drunk person who was not in his right senses. But a public denial of the Communion was sure to damage his reputation. When the man reached the front of the queue, the priest made a sudden and bold decision.

He introduced his hand into his vestments and felt the button of his cassock. With a forceful pull, he removed the round, white and wide button and placed it on the drunkard’s tongue without letting anybody notice his action. The Vicar hoped to send the man a warning through the sacristan at the earliest, before he swallowed the button.

The drunkard returned to the pew and tried his best to soften the tough button with his tongue and saliva, but failed. He even tried to chew it. Then he asked those near him who had just received the Communion whether they too faced a similar situation. Finding that there was no one else with the problem, he made a loud remark, “You guys received the Body of Christ. But I got only His Bone!” Soon the sacristan came to him and conveyed the Vicar’s message and direction.

The Eucharist should not be received in a state of mortal sin or without faith or real reverence. St. Paul warns against receiving the Eucharist without reverence, real faith and sanctifying Grace, “It follows that if anyone eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from His cup in a way that dishonours Him, he is guilty of sin against the Lord’s Body and Blood. So then, everyone should examine himself first, and then eat the bread and drink from this cup. For if he does not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when he eats the bread and drinks from the cup, he brings judgement on himself as he eats and drinks. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and several have died” {1 Corinthians 11: 27-30}.


©By: Dr. Babu Philip, Professor, Cochin University of Science & Technology, Fine Arts Avenue, Kochi-682016, Kerala, India and Leo. S. John, Maniparambil, Ooriyakunnath, Kunnumbhagom, Kanjirappally, Kottayam-686507, Kerala, India.

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