Questions Answered – September 2021

Intinction With Unconsecrated Hosts?

Question: Is it an egregious (sin) matter, if a priest does intinction of unconsecrated hosts with consecrated Precious Blood while distributing Holy Communion?

Answer: Presumably this reflects a real situation in which a priest actually did this during Mass. The only reason I can think for doing this is that one runs out of the consecrated Hosts during the distribution of Holy Communion and is giving communion under both species using the option of intinction which is not from a chalice but an intinction set. To continue giving communion, the priest might reason that he can use unconsecrated Hosts to dip into the precious blood so that all may receive communion. If the intinction involved a large chalice, it would be easy though irregular to merely finish communion with the Precious Blood.

While the intention behind this aberration may be laudable, this does not mean that it is not contrary to the rules. Let us review what the Church teaches on the correct way of giving communion by intinction. The USCCB simply puts the norm this way: “49. Holy Communion may be distributed by intinction in the following manner: ‘Each communicant, while holding a Communion-plate under the mouth, approaches the Priest who holds a vessel with the sacred particles, with a minister standing at his side and holding the chalice. The Priest takes a host, intincts it partly in the chalice and, showing it, says: ‘The Body and Blood of Christ.’ The communicant replies, ‘Amen,’ receives the Sacrament in the mouth from the Priest, and then withdraws.’” (GIRM, 287)

The practice obviously assumes that communion is given under both species or kinds, bread and wine. Since the species both must be consecrated during a Mass, the norm also assumes that both are the outward sign of the sacrament. It is true that the body also entails the blood and the blood the body by the mystery of transubstantiation. This is why one species suffices for all the faithful except the priest at Mass. It is also true that generally in the Church things can be made sacred signs by touch as for example unblessed water which is added to blessed holy water becomes holy water. But these sacred signs are merely sacred signs, they are not the reality itself as is the case with the Eucharist.

While the faithful certainly receive the sacrament because of the Precious Blood, to introduce unconsecrated bread into the Precious Blood would not only be sacrilegious but also confusing and false. In no sense is the unconsecrated bread the Holy Eucharist. Further, the priest would have to say “the Body and Blood of Christ” and the communicant respond “Amen” as a confession of faith. Both statements would be false and a lie. This tends to scandalize people and to demean the sacrament.

The answer would be that objectively this is a grave sin of sacrilege. I have no idea what an egregious sin is but I would think it would be a grave sin. Since the communicant certainly receives communion, the intention of the priest may be in ignorance of these things and in the circumstances he may be motivated by a desire to serve. He should just admit his mistake and, if the faithful cannot receive the precious blood, either say another short Mass or, if that is not possible, simply apologize and learn to put out more hosts next time.

Relationships in the Trinity

Question: How can the Father and the Son in the Trinity be equal if Father and Son are in a hierarchical relationship?

Answer: The doctrine of the Trinity is the most difficult to explain and understand. It remains a mystery no matter how much we understand about our profession of faith about it. Still, there are things we can affirm and deny about what we believe about the three Persons of God in one nature. As is the case with the Incarnation, the Church makes use of terms and concepts taken from Greek philosophy to show that belief in the Trinity is not absurd and to answer heresies about it so that, when we profess the Creed, we have some idea of what we are saying.

Within the Trinity the Church used terms from Greek philosophy: person, nature, and relation. The Trinity is one nature, that is, a unique being with a unique manner of acting, which is divine. Since this nature is infinite, and essence and existence is identified in the “I am who am” of the God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, the only distinction within the Godhead could be one of relation. Yet the infinite God only admits of this distinction preserving the fact that He could not be divided into separate natures. So, the only distinction within the Trinity is one of relation of origin. The Father is God without origin, the Son is God as having his origin in the Father (begotten, not created) and the Holy Spirit is God taking his origin either from the Father and the Son or from the Father through the Son.

The relations established by these origins are real, not ideal. Some have maintained that the word “person” in Greek can refer to “mask” and so the names of the persons are just three aspects of God but do not establish real relations. This makes the persons of the Trinity merely different names for the same thing and is the heresy of modalism (i.e. the persons are three modes of expression).

In God there is one nature but two processions: sonship and spiration. Each of these are the basis for the real distinction of the persons. They in turn establish the four real relations. These are: paternity or active generation of the Son by the Father; filiation or passive generation which the Son receives from the Father; active spiration or the active love of the Father and the Son or through the Son; and passive spiration or the reception after the manner of love by the Holy Spirit of the infinity of God from the Father and the Son or through the Son. There is one further expression of the distinction of relation but it is not real because it is negative and that is the fact that the Father is Unbegotten and receives the Godhead from no other person. Though the relations express a real distinction of the three persons, they are themselves identical with the infinity of the divine nature because they do not divide it.

The answer to your question, then, is that I think the term “hierarchical” is misleading. The Father is first as the unbegotten God and origin of the Son. The Son is second as the Begotten God and origin with the Father of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is third as proceeding from the Father and the Son after the manner of love but himself being the origin of no other person. The Athanasian Creed is very good at expressing what is involved here. Though it is a bit long, it deserves to be better known and so I quote part of it here:

“Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith. For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire, he will undoubtedly be lost forever. This is what the Catholic faith teaches: we worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit.

“But the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have one divinity, equal glory, and coeternal majesty. What the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is boundless, the Son is boundless, and the Holy Spirit is boundless. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy Spirit is eternal. Nevertheless, there are not three eternal beings, but one eternal being. So there are not three uncreated beings, nor three boundless beings, but one uncreated being and one boundless being.

“Likewise, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, the Holy Spirit is omnipotent. Yet there are not three omnipotent beings, but one omnipotent being. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. However, there are not three gods, but one God. The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. However, there are not three lords, but one Lord. For as we are obliged by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person singly to be God and Lord, so too are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say that there are three Gods or Lords. The Father was not made, nor created, nor generated by anyone. The Son is not made, nor created, but begotten by the Father alone. The Holy Spirit is not made, nor created, nor generated, but proceeds from the Father and the Son.

“There is, then, one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits. In this Trinity, there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less. The entire three Persons are coeternal and coequal with one another. So that in all things, as has been said above, the Unity is to be worshipped in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity. He, therefore, who wishes to be saved, must believe thus about the Trinity.”

Fr. Brian Mullady, OP About Fr. Brian Mullady, OP

Fr. Brian T. Mullady, OP, entered the Dominican Order in 1966 and was ordained in 1972. He has been a parish priest, high school teacher, retreat master, mission preacher, and university professor. He has had seven series on EWTN and is the author of two books and numerous articles, including his regular column in HPR, “Questions Answered.”

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