I don’t mean this to sound snarky, but I’m seriously confused by stories coming out of places like Palm Beach, Peoria, and Austin that their respective Catholic archdioceses are recommending worshipers not receive the precious Blood of Christ from a common cup, or at all, at the Eucharist due to fears over the spread of swine flu.
I’m confused because it has been my understanding that Catholics believe in transsubstatiation, the view that at the Eucharist the physical elements of bread and wine are transformed in substance so that they are no longer bread and wine but in fact the Body and Blood of Jesus. The outward “accidents” of the elements are unchanged (the taste, aroma, etc.) but the inward “substance”—what it really is—is transformed.
So, what does it mean theologically that germs can be spread through the medium of consecrated Communion wine? Can the Blood of Christ make you sick? The image that comes to mind is someone hesitating to shake hands with Jesus because Jesus may have shaken hands with someone contagious. I’m not sure what I think about that image, but I struggle to see the faith in it—Eucharistic or otherwise.
I can understand why other groups (the Austin TX article mentioned Methodists) would consider the possibility of contagion from Communion wine and take suitable precautions. For them, it’s still wine in substance and not merely in accidents. (It may be considered to convey the real presence of Christ, depending on the denomination we’re talking about, but the wine is “really present” as well.)
I welcome any clarification or correction from my Catholic readers. And yes, I will delete any uncharitable comments directed at any point of view concerning the meaning of Communion.