Friday, June 21, 2019 - Updated: 12:48 pm
QUESTION: I firmly believe that respect for the body of Christ has decreased since the completion of the Second Vatican Council. I know not everyone agrees with me, but am I that wrong?
ANSWER: Responding to this question requires a clarity about what we mean by “the body of Christ.” The context of the question infers that what is meant is the “body of Christ” in the Eucharist (as received in holy Communion) or as reserved in the tabernacle.
But there is another “body of Christ” about which St. Paul writes when he says, “You, then, are the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Central to the teaching of the New Testament was the belief that those who were baptized became members of the “body of Christ.”
Thus, “the body of Christ” has two realities, one received in holy Communion and one that is created from all those who came to believe in Christ and are baptized.
This biblical teaching was best appreciated when both “bodies” were fully taught and fully appreciated. Over the centuries, there were times when teaching about one “body” was emphasized to the exclusion of the other. The result of this could become a disregard for the welfare of the body of Christ (people) while being able to say that one had great respect for the body of Christ (Eucharist). It could also occur when one has respect for the body of Christ (people) but not for the body of Christ (the Blessed Sacrament).
The reality is that those who receive the Eucharist are brought into a table fellowship that is rightly called the body of Christ. Fidelity to Christ means that we are faithful and respect both the body of Christ we receive and the body of Christ we become.
While the Second Vatican Council helped us appreciate our obligations toward one another, it assumed that the full teaching on the body of Christ must include respect for both “bodies” of Christ. While we appreciate our obligations toward one another, we can never neglect an appreciation for Christ in the Eucharist.
Respect for the Eucharistic body of Christ can be demonstrated in many ways. Obviously it is seen in the frequency of our reception of Communion, but it can also be demonstrated by the way we attend Mass. This involves the way we dress, the way we arrive on time and the way we remain for the entire Mass (and not leave directly after receiving Communion).
It can also be seen in the way we participate at Mass and by the way we welcome others to the Eucharist as they worship with us. “Guarding” the end seat of a pew and refusing to move in when others arrive is not a sign of respect for the Eucharist. Neither is standing as far in the back of the church as possible. There are many ways by which we demonstrate our respect for the body of Christ. All of them should be fostered and none of them should be neglected.
Father Bober is administrator of the grouping that includes St. Kilian in Adams/Cranberry townships and Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills.