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Vicki Lindeke wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a lover of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I was saved at 6 and found the feet to my faith at age 26. My question is this:

  • Can a Christian (we go to a Lutheran Church) receive Communion at a Catholic Church when we are at a First Communion for our friend's daughter?

This is important as I believe one shouldn't receive communion if they are truly not communing with God — praying, being guided, and allowing the Lord to lead your life.

I know that Christ died for my sins, was born of the Virgin Mary, rose again, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. I couldn't walk a day without Him.

Please advise.

Vicki Lindeke
Hospice RN Case Manager

  { If a Lutheran has been invited to a friend's daughter's First Communion, can they receive there? }

John replied:

Dear Vicki,

Thanks for the question. I am happy to hear that you are in love with the Lord and seek to serve Him. I also thank you for having enough respect for your brother Christians to ask this question.

Unfortunately the answer to your question is No. The guidelines for the reception of the Eucharist are found in the Missals in our Church pews. The entire text of the guidelines follows:

Guidelines for the Reception of Holy Communion

For Catholics: As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental Confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for Confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (Code of Canon Law, Canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.

For fellow Christians: We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in the keeping with Christ's prayer for us that they may be one (John 17:21).

Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of oneness, life and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (Canon 844 § 4). Members of Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to the Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by the Christians of these Churches (Canon 844 § 3).

For those not receiving Holy Communion: All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity
with the Lord Jesus and with one another.

For non-Christians: We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.

I'd like to clarify both the guidelines and their purpose as many Protestants are often offended and see them as exclusionary and discriminatory.

You'll notice that we don't object to Orthodox Christians receiving the Eucharist with us but also notice that they are urged to observe their own discipline.

In most cases, their Bishops will not allow them to receive Communion in our Church. That said, both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians share substantially the same faith in the Eucharist. In fact, the divisions which exist between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, for the most part, revolve around authority. While these divisions keep us under different roofs, we substantially share:

  • the same seven sacraments
  • Apostolic Succession, and
  • theology, which although expressed differently, is substantially the same.

Hence, the same valid Eucharist celebrated in the Catholic Church is celebrated in Eastern Orthodox Churches.

On the other hand, the celebration of communion amongst Protestant communities, not only differs from that of the Catholic Church, but it varies from denomination to denomination.

In the Lutheran tradition, the understanding of the Real Presence is incomplete. Luther professed that Christ was present in the bread and wine. This is a doctrine called consubstantiation. Catholics believe that Jesus, (Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity) is fully present in what appears to be bread and wine. In other words, the substance changes. We call this Transubstantiation.

To your thinking, it might not seem like a big deal but theologically speaking, there is a world of difference. Moreover, when Luther broke from the Church, he abolished the priesthood; hence communion services in the Lutheran Church are only a memorial meal. We believe that at the Eucharist, we are present at Calvary witnessing our salvation. We see the same once and for all Sacrifice made present to us, in the here-and-now, by the power of the Holy Spirit in an un-bloody manner. At the same time, we are caught up in the Heavenly Liturgy where we join the Angels and Saints; worshiping the Lamb of God — slain before the foundation of the world. We also believe that we receive Jesus in the most intimate manner possible. For He is our Passover Lamb.

I have said all this so that as you attend our Mass, you might understand what we believe.

In fact, my sister in Christ, I'd invite you to read the books of Revelation and Hebrews (particularly Hebrews 12) before you attend this celebration. It will give you a much better understanding of what is going on.

I thank you for your zeal for the things of God and again I thank you for the respect you have shown us by asking this question.

Join us in praying that Holy Spirit leads all Christians to heal the wounds of division we've inflicted on the Body of Christ.

Under His Mercy,

John DiMascio

Mary Ann replied:

Hi Vicki,

John's answer was comprehensive, but I just want to give a short version.

What it boils down to is this: as Scripture says, the communion is with the Body and Blood of the Lord. When we say communion we are not speaking of communion with God in spirit, or of communion with each other in charity, though these are real kinds of communion. We mean the actual communion with, coming into union with Christ Himself through partaking of His living Body and Blood.

In order to do this we, of course, should believe it or we eat and drink unworthily, not discerning the body (1 Corinthians 11:29), and we should have one Lord, one faith, one Baptism
(Ephesians 4:5) — i.e.:

  • unity under the Lord's governance through His Apostles and their successors
  • unity of belief with Peter as the Rock of that belief, and
  • unity of the life of Baptism, the sacramental life which is renewed by the other sacraments and has its source and crown in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

The Sacrifice we commune with is Christ's offering of Himself in obedience to the Father, which He continues through His glorified humanity in Heaven. That is the same sacrifice He made through His death on the Cross, the offering of His will totally to the Father.

You are so blessed to have found Christ in faith. Now you are invited to go where you can find Him in time and space: His Word and His Very Self. They are present in the Catholic Church, in Her teachings and in Her sacraments.

Yes, Lutherans and Anglicans believe that Jesus is present in their sacraments, but they do not have the laying on of hands from the Apostles, the ordaining that they need to pass on the gift of the Spirit from Christ who after He rose from the dead gave them the Spirit. One can only pass on what has been received, as St. Paul always says. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) This is especially true of the gift of priestly power. Believing doesn't make something so. We must believe the word of the Lord handed down, not the word of others.

Your communion in the Lutheran Church has elements of spiritual communion with Jesus
(the Spirit blows where He wills, and you are incorporated into Christ by Baptism), but it is
not communion in the living flesh and blood of the Lord, in His living glorified humanity,
which actually is the source of the all the others sorts of communion.

Now, I am sure that Jesus communes spiritually with those who desire Him, but He also calls them to a fuller communion, the one that He intended. If you do receive Communion in a Catholic Mass you are saying that:

  • you believe Catholic Truth
  • accept Catholic unity, and
  • belong to the sacramental unity

— without that being the case!

You do belong by Baptism to Christ, and you do have a relationship to His Church through Baptism but you are not in full communion with the Body of Christ which is the Church, as you do not in good conscience accept Catholic teaching and you do not discern the Real Presence as Catholics hold it to be.

So your communion taken in a Catholic Church is not a true communion with the Catholic Church.

It is sort of like having sex outside of marriage. It's real; it can give life, but it is without the commitment, belonging, and union that the very act [receiving Communion] says it is doing — which means it is a lie.

That's theology of the body in a nutshell! : )

Mary Ann

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