How can the Eucharist enter a body contaminated by venial sin?

Today the question in this title occurred to me. I've been studying and meditating a lot on the extreme holiness of God. He is so holy that the priests of the Old Testament had to go through ritual purification before they could touch the poles that held the Ark that contained His Presence (which was not His full Incarnate presence, mind). Someone who touched the Ark simply to try and steady it was instantly killed.

To contain the symbols and Presence of the Lord, the Ark of the Covenant had to be covered with gold inside and out, symbolizing purity. The Tabernacle containing the Ark had to likewise be covered on the whole of its interior with purest gold. Then the Temple containing the Tabernacle had to be covered throughout the interior with purest gold -- and made, I might add, out of the finest wood.

When David conquered Jerusalem, he had all the disfigured and sick removed from the city (such exterior physical ailments symbolized sin in Old Testament typology) because the Presence of the Lord would dwell there. Ark, Tabernacle, Temple and City had to be purified. Only the High Priest could enter the Tabernacle, and he only at very rare times.

The Virgin Mary had to be perfectly immaculate from the very moment of her conception, utterly "Full of Grace," before she could receive the Incarnate Lord in her womb. She was so utterly consumed by grace that she was granted because of her virtue and faith a throne above all Heaven and Earth, a throne of highest splendor and power. She was and continues to be the greatest of all living Tabernacles of the Lord.

Then I think of Heaven, how to stand in the full presence of God we too must be utterly immaculate and so radically will we be affected by the sight of His Face that it is beyond all reckoning what fantastic splendor and joy we will receive.

I think also of those in Hell, how utterly unfathomable are their torments because they rejected God, and God's goodness is so deep and so mighty that rejecting the infinite goodness in life brings such ferocious justice down on the heads of men. Hell is a terrifying reflection of the holiness of God, for if God wasn't so good, rejecting Him wouldn't be so evil.

Creation sings of the glory and magnificence of God and all the evidence of our faith points to holiness beyond any measure or calculation, so far beyond us that to try to brush it would be for a speck of sand to place itself before the Milky Way and say, "Here I am."

And then I think about the Eucharist . . . The Eucharist, which is the Son of God Himself, come to me, to make me a living tabernacle of His glory like the Virgin Mary, a living, breathing human being receiving God Almighty into myself.

How can such things be? I know it is recommended we go to Confession and try to repent devoutly of all sins before receiving the Eucharist, and the priest prays with us before we receive, "I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." This is faith, but we are still stained with venial sin, are we not?

I know I have to trust that word that God gave, the word by which I am healed directly before I receive the Eucharist. But I don't understand that word. Mary had to be Immaculately Conceived, the Temple and Ark and all the rest had to be purest gold, the man before God in Heaven must be spotlessly sinless and transcendent in the glory of the Almighty . . . So how can I possibly receive the Son of God into my sinful body without burning to a cinder at once?

I know we must not receive the Eucharist in mortal sin, but it is allowed to receive Him while stained with venial sin. How can such things be?

I'm trying to understand.

Venial sin is removed when the Confiteor is recited at the beginning of Mass.

[quote="Lief_Erikson, post:1, topic:184003"]
Today the question in this title occurred to me. I've been studying and meditating a lot on the extreme holiness of God. He is so holy that the priests of the Old Testament had to go through ritual purification before they could touch the poles that held the Ark that contained His Presence (which was not His full Incarnate presence, mind). Someone who touched the Ark simply to try and steady it was instantly killed.

To contain the symbols and Presence of the Lord, the Ark of the Covenant had to be covered with gold inside and out, symbolizing purity. The Tabernacle containing the Ark had to likewise be covered on the whole of its interior with purest gold. Then the Temple containing the Tabernacle had to be covered throughout the interior with purest gold -- and made, I might add, out of the finest wood.

When David conquered Jerusalem, he had all the disfigured and sick removed from the city (such exterior physical ailments symbolized sin in Old Testament typology) because the Presence of the Lord would dwell there. Ark, Tabernacle, Temple and City had to be purified. Only the High Priest could enter the Tabernacle, and he only at very rare times.

The Virgin Mary had to be perfectly immaculate from the very moment of her conception, utterly "Full of Grace," before she could receive the Incarnate Lord in her womb. She was so utterly consumed by grace that she was granted because of her virtue and faith a throne above all Heaven and Earth, a throne of highest splendor and power. She was and continues to be the greatest of all living Tabernacles of the Lord.

Then I think of Heaven, how to stand in the full presence of God we too must be utterly immaculate and so radically will we be affected by the sight of His Face that it is beyond all reckoning what fantastic splendor and joy we will receive.

I think also of those in Hell, how utterly unfathomable are their torments because they rejected God, and God's goodness is so deep and so mighty that rejecting the infinite goodness in life brings such ferocious justice down on the heads of men. Hell is a terrifying reflection of the holiness of God, for if God wasn't so good, rejecting Him wouldn't be so evil.

Creation sings of the glory and magnificence of God and all the evidence of our faith points to holiness beyond any measure or calculation, so far beyond us that to try to brush it would be for a speck of sand to place itself before the Milky Way and say, "Here I am."

And then I think about the Eucharist . . . The Eucharist, which is the Son of God Himself, come to me, to make me a living tabernacle of His glory like the Virgin Mary, a living, breathing human being receiving God Almighty into myself.

How can such things be? I know it is recommended we go to Confession and try to repent devoutly of all sins before receiving the Eucharist, and the priest prays with us before we receive, "I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." This is faith, but we are still stained with venial sin, are we not?

I know I have to trust that word that God gave, the word by which I am healed directly before I receive the Eucharist. But I don't understand that word. Mary had to be Immaculately Conceived, the Temple and Ark and all the rest had to be purest gold, the man before God in Heaven must be spotlessly sinless and transcendent in the glory of the Almighty . . . So how can I possibly receive the Son of God into my sinful body without burning to a cinder at once?

I know we must not receive the Eucharist in mortal sin, but it is allowed to receive Him while stained with venial sin. How can such things be?

I'm trying to understand.

[/quote]

Because God is loving, gracious, and merciful.

[quote="Iubilate_Deo, post:2, topic:184003"]
Venial sin is removed when the Confiteor is recited at the beginning of Mass.

[/quote]

That's interesting. Can we be sure all venial sins are removed? I mean, the people praying it don't always go through their sins in their minds. I don't always go through my sins in my mind when reciting the Confiteor, and my priest told me it's not the time for that but for simply acknowledging that we are sinners.

Also, it's quite probable that after reciting the Confiteor, many people will have sinful thoughts at some point during the Mass, whether an attitude toward a noisy person sitting near them or thinking about something going on at home or anything else. But surely this doesn't defile the Eucharist when they receive it.

I'm actually positive St. Thomas Aquinas addresses this very subject in his Summa Theologica. I remember reading it. I think he might have said that the Eucharist Himself wipes away venial sin when we receive Him, because Jesus said "this is my blood given to you for the forgiveness of sins." But I'm not sure if I'm remembering what Thomas Aquinas said right. I know he addressed the subject but I don't remember what he said. :(

[quote="Iubilate_Deo, post:2, topic:184003"]
Venial sin is removed when the Confiteor is recited at the beginning of Mass.

[/quote]

Remember too that one need NOT actually be free of venial sin to (eventually) enter heaven - that's what Purgatory is for, to purify us. We (or most of us) need purification because we (or most of us) don't die perfect! And everyone who goes to purgatory DOES, after their purification, end up in Heaven.

So think of the process of Mass leading up to Communion as being similar to that purification that souls undergo in Purgatory. As has been pointed out, the Confiteor DOES absolve us of venial sins, as does the act of receiving Communion itself, I've read that too.

I think you're misunderstanding how the process of forgiveness works. If we FAIL to recall even a mortal sin it is nonetheless absolved when we are in the confessional. It's only if we remember and, remembering, deliberately fail to mention it in the confessional, that it is unforgiven. And that is ONLY in the case of mortal sins.

Venial sins to my knowledge need never be mentioned by name or specifically and individually called to mind to be forgiven. As long as there is a general acknowledgement that we are sinners in need of mercy, which there is in the Penitential Rite. That's why we don't need to go through the process of sacramental confession for venial sins.

Remember, too, that as great a blessing as Communion is, it certainly does not comprise the complete and utter union with God that entering Heaven would be. It's a wonderful and miraculous foreshadowing of it, to be certain, but not so much the same thing that we need be utterly perfect to receive it.

If the perfect God incarnate could enter into the imperfect sinful world for the purpose of it's salvation, it seems perfectly logical that He could enter into our sinful bodies for the same reason.

The SIN (imperfections) of the world was no barrier to Christ's birth and mission, neither are our imperfections (sins) a barrier to his entering into us with saving grace.

Peace
James

[quote="Lief_Erikson, post:4, topic:184003"]
That's interesting. Can we be sure all venial sins are removed? I mean, the people praying it don't always go through their sins in their minds. I don't always go through my sins in my mind when reciting the Confiteor, and my priest told me it's not the time for that but for simply acknowledging that we are sinners.

Also, it's quite probable that after reciting the Confiteor, many people will have sinful thoughts at some point during the Mass, whether an attitude toward a noisy person sitting near them or thinking about something going on at home or anything else. But surely this doesn't defile the Eucharist when they receive it.

I'm actually positive St. Thomas Aquinas addresses this very subject in his Summa Theologica. I remember reading it. I think he might have said that the Eucharist Himself wipes away venial sin when we receive Him, because Jesus said "this is my blood given to you for the forgiveness of sins." But I'm not sure if I'm remembering what Thomas Aquinas said right. I know he addressed the subject but I don't remember what he said. :(

[/quote]

Yes, absolutely, the Eucharist also remits venial sin. Jesus is a healer.

How can the Eucfharist enter a body contaminated by venial sin?

The same way it enters the body a great saint such as yourself.

It goes into the communcant's mouth and is swallowed.

[quote="Iubilate_Deo, post:2, topic:184003"]
Venial sin is removed when the Confiteor is recited at the beginning of Mass.

[/quote]

Venial sins can be forgiven at this time --yes.

They can also be in other ways..at other times..

They also can be forgiven when receiving the Holy Eucharist.

From the Catechism:

1436 Eucharist and Penance. Daily conversion and penance find their source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucharist those who live from the life of Christ are fed and strengthened. "It is a remedy to free us from our daily faults and to preserve us from mortal sins."35

1437 Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Our Father - every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of our sins.

vatican.va/archive/catechism/ccc_toc.htm

It is important first of all -- to realized the reality of "the Christian" the reality that came about in Baptism.... a Christian is as Paul puts it 'in Christ' he is a new creation...the Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit...the Christian is a son in the Son...he is a son of light...he is a disciple of Christ...he is to consider himself dead to sin and alive in Christ..he is walking in the new life...he knows life....he is a saint (a holy one..Canonized Saints are those of heroic holiness) as Paul puts it and Pope Benedict reminded us...the Christian is to walk in the Spirit and in love...he is "in Christ"...the Christian is 'of Jesus Christ'....

now the nature of venial sin is that it is essentially of its nature different from mortal sin!
it does not remove any of this reality....it to different degrees can make us less active etc in living charity making it weaker in the way it is lived etc and can slow our progress etc...but it is very different than mortal sin...

and remember we commit venial sin daily...

i am not saying they do not count or ignore them....not at all ...but keep the reality above as your focus -- your being 'in Christ' ...a Christian ....and work especially on the deliberate venial sins...and seek to ask forgiveness etc right when they happen ...

and remember we are in a radically new reality! And one we can deepen in and become more like Christ....

the the Eucharist ...receiving Christ in Holy Communion is one of the best ways to!


From the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

  1. When does one commit a venial sin?

1862-1864
1875

One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.

  1. What are the fruits of Holy Communion?

1391-1397
1416

Holy Communion increases our union with Christ and with his Church. It preserves and renews the life of grace received at Baptism and Confirmation and makes us grow in love for our neighbor. It strengthens us in charity, wipes away venial sins and preserves us from mortal sin in the future.

[quote="Bookcat, post:11, topic:184003"]

1416

Holy Communion increases our union with Christ and with his Church. It preserves and renews the life of grace received at Baptism and Confirmation and makes us grow in love for our neighbor. It strengthens us in charity, wipes away venial sins and preserves us from mortal sin in the future.

[/quote]

Thanks for your insightful post, Bookcat! I think this last part is what helps me the most, for if the Eucharist wipes out venial sins at the moment He enters us, then we are in that time truly spotless images of the one true God. Even if only for a brief time.

But that would lead me to scratch my head on another matter . . . if one has received the Eucharist, is there any reason to go to Confession about venial sins one committed before receiving Him? I mean since they've already been wiped out.

Since I go to Mass daily, this would seem to suggest I never need to go to Confession again, unless I commit a mortal sin, and I know that's not right . . . :confused:

[quote="Lief_Erikson, post:12, topic:184003"]
Thanks for your insightful post, Bookcat! I think this last part is what helps me the most, for if the Eucharist wipes out venial sins at the moment He enters us, then we are in that time truly spotless images of the one true God. Even if only for a brief time.

But that would lead me to scratch my head on another matter . . . if one has received the Eucharist, is there any reason to go to Confession about venial sins one committed before receiving Him? I mean since they've already been wiped out.

Since I go to Mass daily, this would seem to suggest I never need to go to Confession again, unless I commit a mortal sin, and I know that's not right . . . :confused:

[/quote]

You hit on an important point. We don't make ourselves all clean and presentable and then approach God. We approach God, hat in hand (in total poverty, more precisely) to be cleaned, healed, and made whole. This is why, before receiving, we all say, "Lord, I am not worthy....".

You ought to read the Catechism and the Compendium. You are going to love them! If you can't afford to buy hard copies, or aren't near your home library, the Vatican has them posted online, so that anyone may read them for free:
vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html
vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

For instance, this is from the Compendium:
**Why can venial sins also be the object of sacramental confession?*
The confession of venial sins is strongly recommended by the Church, even if this is not strictly necessary, because it helps us to form a correct conscience and to fight against evil tendencies. It allows us to be healed by Christ and to progress in the life of the Spirit.*

[quote="Lief_Erikson, post:12, topic:184003"]
Thanks for your insightful post, Bookcat! I think this last part is what helps me the most, for if the Eucharist wipes out venial sins at the moment He enters us, then we are in that time truly spotless images of the one true God. Even if only for a brief time.

But that would lead me to scratch my head on another matter . . . if one has received the Eucharist, is there any reason to go to Confession about venial sins one committed before receiving Him? I mean since they've already been wiped out.

Since I go to Mass daily, this would seem to suggest I never need to go to Confession again, unless I commit a mortal sin, and I know that's not right . . . :confused:

[/quote]

I would not normally wait to receive Holy Communion -- if one has only venial sins...for then one would only go once a week....:rolleyes:

One is only required to confess mortal sins.

It is good and recommended to confess venial sins (pick some you are particularly sorry for and intend the rest you are sorry for when you say 'and all the sins of my life' at the end of confession).

Devotional confession is very helpful in following Christ.. and one receives particular graces in confession to work on those sins...

From Canon Law (Roman)

Can. 988 §1. A member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind and number all grave sins committed after baptism and not yet remitted directly through the keys of the Church nor acknowledged in individual confession, of which the person has knowledge after diligent examination of conscience.

§2. It is recommended to the Christian faithful that they also confess venial sins.

Can. 989 After having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year.

vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P3H.HTM

Another point.

Live in reality.

As I noted above...

If you are 'in Christ' then you are a new creation! as Pope Benedict has pointed out -- St. Paul etc in Sacred Scripture --refers to all Christians as saints. Holy. (canonized Saints are those who have lived holiness heroically and are models for is etc)

reflect on the reality of Baptism! of being a Christian! a son of light!

If you are in Christ and have not committed a mortal sin -- you are living in his friendship and grace! you are a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Read the letter to the Ephesians and the one to the Colossians.....

We need to follow Christ joyfully and with confidence!

not focus TOO much on avoiding venial sins...but with patience and trust work on avoid them....the deliberate ones particularly...

and of course have humility.

of course we need to avoid venial sins...for they can sap our full ability to follow HIm etc....especially diliberate venial sins....

but we need to stop and pray...repent and then move on! Run the race with eyes fixed on Christ....

we need to "walk in love", "walk in the Spirit".....live in God...in Christ.

[quote="EasterJoy, post:13, topic:184003"]
You hit on an important point. We don't make ourselves all clean and presentable and then approach God. We approach God, hat in hand (in total poverty, more precisely) to be cleaned, healed, and made whole. This is why, before receiving, we all say, "Lord, I am not worthy....".

[/quote]

Yes, to me this is a very serious part of the equation. I'm taking this single sentence of the Mass, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed," much more seriously than I used to. I wonder if this is the part of the Mass where we are supernaturally given grace to receive the Eucharist without incuring God's wrath.

We are not worthy, but if He says the word and makes us healed as we ask Him to, does this mean we receive sufficient grace to receive Life on our tongue? Mary had to be "Full of Grace" to receive Christ in her womb . . . but at one word Christ can make us stainless. He does this at the moment of Baptism and repeats this offering of grace in the Sacrament of Confession. Does He confer the same supernatural word to cleanse us and make us pure directly before Mass?

If that was the case, though, then why is it said that in this cup our sins can be wiped away, since they are forgiven in the word we receive right before the Sacrifice?

Actually, I have another thought . . . I'm thinking this through as I go . . .

Another aspect of this whole situation is that we hear it taught that it is possible to "lose grace" when receiving the Eucharist through sinful dispositions. If we are harboring sinful habits or venial sins in our heart, these impede our ability to receive the Eucharist. Consequently, our union with God in the Sacrament is probably never perfect, and never would be even if we were a canonized saint, because we remain sinners.

And people receiving in a state of mortal sin don't receive any grace from the taking, but instead only a curse. I heard a story from the Early Church about how a person took the Eucharist in mortal sin and it became ash in her mouth. The chronicler of the story wrote that this shows that in some way, the Lord removes His Presence from those who receive while in grave sin.

Is it perhaps the case that the Lord removes His Presence in the Eucharist from us to whatever extent we are guilty of venial sin? So that if I am loving my neighbors a lot but at the same time am guilty of gluttony at the desert table, I receive the Presence of God through the Eucharist insofar as I am loving, but don't receive all of Him because my gluttony prevents Him receiving access to all parts of my life?

I suspect that this might be what takes place . . . that the Lord only can come into those parts of us that are immaculate and worthy to receive Him, except He also enters those parts that He renders immaculate by His very Presence, but He doesn't come into those parts of our lives that are sinful and consequently we "lose grace" when we receive, because we can't receive the fullness of grace offered in the Real Presence.

Does this sound right to people?

If what I said above is true, then what you just said fits in very neatly. In a person without Baptism, it is impossible to receive the Eucharist because they are not temples of the Holy Spirit. But for the Baptized who have been made New Creations in Christ, filled with the light of the Living God, we can receive Him insofar as we are purified to be able to receive Him. So He will enter those parts of our souls that shine with His light and can worthily receive Him (through His grace and our prayers for forgiveness during the Mass) and also some parts of us that cannot worthily receive Him because His very presence within us purifies those parts of us. However, in parts of our lives where by our choice we continue to indulge in sin, He does not enter us in the Eucharist and we lose part of the grace of His Real Presence. Thus He only enters those parts of us that can receive Him worthily, that truly are temples of God's Presence, or those parts of us that He makes worthy of Him in the Coming.

But those parts of Him that we keep from Him, He does not enter. And thus in the Sacrament, Purity is made one with Purity and Grace with Grace, but God and Sin have no party.

Does this make sense?

take a bit and meditate on the few posts i entered up above ...

venial sin does not prevent one from approaching Holy Communion.

the devil would love for us to think this...for then we would never go...

it is the other way around...Holy Communion --can help us follow Christ...

and work on overcoming our habits of venial sin ...

PS i recommend this book to you:

frjacquesphilippe.com/books/searching_forand_maintaining_peace.html

frjacquesphilippe.com/

Thanks :).

[quote=Bookcat, post:17, topic:184003"]
venial sin does not prevent one from approaching Holy Communion.

the devil would love for us to think this...for then we would never go...

[/quote]

I don't claim to know better than the Church does; I'm not stupid. I completely agree we can go to Mass and receive the Eucharist while still in a state of venial sin. I'm just trying to figure out how it makes sense theologically and spiritually :).

[quote="Bookcat, post:17, topic:184003"]
it is the other way around...Holy Communion --can help us follow Christ...

and work on overcoming our habits of venial sin ...

[/quote]

What I was trying to talk about in my post above was the concept of "losing grace" that the Church teaches can happen when we receive the Eucharist in a state of sin. I believe the saints have talked about how we squander almost all the graces of the Eucharist because we live in so much sin. Yet those graces that we do receive are so powerful they still lift us marvelously into the life of God.

In my post above, I was saying maybe "losing grace" reflects God's Real Presence only entering those parts of our lives where we are pure and can thus worthily receive Him (obviously He must help us enormously to make this possible, sanctifying us by His very presence), and those sinful parts of our lives where we are open to transformation, for then His Presence transforms us and renders these parts of our lives pure by His Presence. Thus He does not enter sin but rather a holy place, because He has made it holy.

We read many stories about people trying to receive the Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin, and the Host either turns to ash in their mouths or becomes solid as rock and impossible to chew or swallow. Early Church writers said that this reflects in a physical way how the Lord removes His Presence from anyone who receives Him unworthily. Or, if we incorporate the Catholic concept of "losing grace" into this, one might say that He keeps His Presence away from any part of our lives where we insist on living in sin. Instead, He enters only those parts of us that can immaculately receive Him (or that He renders able to immaculately receive Him by His presence) or those parts of our sinful lives where we want Him to help us, in which case He purifies by entering. This is maybe what the Church is talking about when it says receiving the Eucharist can itself cleanse us of venial sin.

Mortal sin, of course, prevents people from receiving the Presence at all. Venial sin, as real sin but less grave than mortal sin, causes us to lose some of the grace of God's Presence but not all of it. If we were entirely pure like Mary was, we would receive all the grace of God conveyed by the Eucharist and be wholly, totally one with Him, rather than only partly one with Him. For none of us will be perfectly, completely one with Christ until we reach Heaven.

Thus when we receive Christ in the Eucharist, we are receiving Him into those parts of us that are pure and ready to receive Him and into those parts of us that are ready to be transformed by Him, so that He can enter such places and change them into holy places by His very presence. But those parts of us that are sinful and which we insist on keeping in sin, He does not enter when we receive Him. Thus He only enters a pure and spotless temple fitting for His glorified nature.

Does this make sense to you? I think I've finally got it figured out in a way that makes sense to me . . .

[quote="Lief_Erikson, post:19, topic:184003"]
Thanks :).

I don't claim to know better than the Church does; I'm not stupid. I completely agree we can go to Mass and receive the Eucharist while still in a state of venial sin.

[/quote]

this term -- 'state of venial sin' --drop this. :)

we are not in a 'state' of venial sin.

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