Sunday, 28 September 2008

Grace and Beloved's Church Search Week 15: Catholic Mass

Whenever I'm in a Catholic church, it always strikes me to wonder quite what the Church of England and Rome have had to argue about*; the liturgies and their underlying theology being so startlingly similar to one another**. My suspicion is that, given that the Anglican communion service has used English since 1549 whereas the Catholic mass has used the vernacular only since 1964, there has been over four hundred years of people not realising this.

The mass we went to proceeded something like this.

CONGREGATION: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: grant us peace.

PRIEST: This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.

CONGREGATION: Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

PRIEST: Right, so let me to inject in here for a minute. This is a Catholic mass, in which we as Catholics celebrate the giving of Christ's body for us as the Catholic church. All Catholics are welcome to receive and we ask that all non-Catholics here do not come to receive unless they have made their Holy Communion as Catholics and that if they aren't Catholics that they indicate clearly that they aren't Catholics to allow me to know that they're not Catholics...

That's a first, far from Catholicism as I've ever yet experienced it. I mean, I understand the Catholic position of the papally-suceeded Church of Rome being the only True Church. And I understand that certain Catholic bishops can give priests quite a bollocking for offering the elements to non-Catholics. And I'd be open to the possibility that there may have been someone for some reasons keeping an eye on this particular priest in such a way as made him feel he needed to labour the pont as he did.

But why, why is Holy Communion [the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper] only for those the Church or church has pre-vetted as Christians? And why is the church or Church often so uptight about ensuring it is?

I mean, who was it that transformed religion, faith and society by making a point of repeatedly eating with those deemed unclean, unworthy and undesirable? How might he feel about us restricting access to his Body and Blood?

*that is, of course, aside from questions of Henry VIII's wives, the Battle of the Boyne and Bloody Sunday...
**well, apart from the Pope...


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't he want to give his Heart to everyone?

Steve Lancaster said...

And (following on from anaonymous) hasn't he given his Heart to everyone already?