We’re all aware of the heated dispute inside the Catholic Church regarding whether baptized Catholic pro-abortion politicians—and in particular, President Joe Biden—should be admitted to Holy Communion. Instead of treading over well-worn territory, I want to turn to the liturgy, which, as the late Benedictine theologian Aidan Kavanagh defined, is “the faith of the Church in motion.”
Arguments defending Biden’s reception of the Eucharist is rooted in a deficient understanding of the liturgy. When was the last time Biden, or any other pro-abortion politician, attended a Mass and heard St. Paul’s warning to the community at Corinth about unworthy reception of the Eucharist? How many of those who think Biden should receive Holy Communion attend Masses where what happens at the altar is unambiguously and unapologetically presented as the propitiatory sacrifice that Christ offers to the Father for the salvation of mankind?
Liturgical words, liturgical actions, and liturgical vision shape our understanding of the Christian faith. In the case of those unrepentant pro-abortion politicians who demand the Eucharist—and their staunch supporters—we might find that the liturgy they know and attend is one which minimizes or ignores these truths and their implications.
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In the Byzantine Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, prior to the reception of Holy Communion, the entire assembly prays:
I believe, O Lord and confess, that You are truly the Christ, Son of the living God, Who came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the first. O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant of Your Mystical Supper, for I will not speak of this Mystery to Your enemies, nor like Judas will I give You a kiss, but like the penitent thief I confess to You:
O Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.
O Master, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.
O Holy one, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.
Here, there is an explicit confession of faith, the same confession uttered by Simon Peter at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:16), and it is combined with Paul’s admittance of being the chief of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). There is no doubt that Christ is the exclusive agent of God’s plan for salvation, nor is there any doubt that we are fallible sinners in need of such saving. After petitioning Christ for acceptance into the Mystical Supper, the faithful offer two of their own conditions for reception: “for I will not speak of this Mystery to Your enemies, nor like Judas will I give You a kiss.”
Unlike those who envision a God who is chummy and tolerant of all, the liturgy proclaims something different: Christ has enemies. It is entirely possible to become an enemy to God insofar as we stray from and reject His law and commandments. In the early Church, the Eucharistic mystery was concealed from non-Christians, and even those who were in the process of being initiated were required to leave prior to the anaphora. The Eucharist was not a plaything for civil officials, nor was it a topic for debate. The liturgy already settled the debate of who may and may not receive Christ’s Body and Blood, and certainly, Christ’s enemies were excluded.
The second condition is that we will not, unlike Judas, give Christ a kiss. Is kissing Christ wrong? Clearly, it is not, as Christ Himself commended the actions of the penitent woman who “bathed his feet with her tears” and kissed his feet (Luke 7:38). The promise of not giving a kiss “like Judas” has less to do with the action of kissing and more about what the act symbolized for Judas. The kiss is the manifestation of Judas’ betrayal.
Of course, his betrayal began much earlier, first with an interior turn from love of God to a love of money. The kiss represented the non serviam already deforming Judas’ heart, the refusal to humble oneself and serve God and the acceptance of public favor and to demand that God serves man. Moreover, while the synoptic Gospels are not united in stating that Judas received the Eucharist, they all contain an explicit mentioning of Judas’ kiss of betrayal. The kiss of Judas is the original sacrilege, the demeaning of the Holy One by the man seduced by the Evil One.
Why does the Divine Liturgy say “nor will I give you a kiss as did Judas” and not “nor will I receive Your Body unworthily”? Unworthy reception of Holy Communion—that is, the reception of the Eucharist by one whose soul is dead in mortal sin—is enough of an offense. But, in most cases, it is largely a private one. That is not to say that it cannot, in the case of public persons and notorious sinners, be a source of scandal. It certainly can.
But the kiss of Judas was the public sign of dissent from Christ: the kiss took a sign of affection and love and replaced it with a sign of animosity and hatred. The outer appearance of the kiss hid its inner reality, just as the outer appearance of pro-abortion politicians receiving the Eucharist attempts to hide the inner reality of their obstinate defense of dismembering children in the womb. The kiss of the penitential woman was one of adoration and love; the kiss of Judas was one of deceit and duplicity.
Judas used his knowledge of Christ and the privilege of being in His company to betray and mock Him. He sold Our Lord for thirty pieces of silver, no meager sum in those times. Biden, Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and other pro-abortion Democratic politicians use their knowledge of Christ and Church teaching—such as citing the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and “primacy of conscience”—as a way to subvert Church leaders to support sacrilege.
They sell Our Lord, not for thirty pieces of silver but for public approval, votes, and, based on Planned Parenthood’s $40 million donation to their Party, more money than Judas could ever have dreamt of possessing. The kiss of Judas is elongated each time a pro-abortion Catholic politician approaches the Mystical Supper, as their external expression of being one with Christ and His Church is a lie.
The fact that there is any debate regarding the admittance of Biden and other public, notorious sinners to receive the Body of Christ reveals a pathetic pusillanimity on the part of the successors to the apostles. It also, in some cases, might reflect a deficiency in the liturgical reform, which largely omitted language of unworthiness, sin, and the need for repentance prior to Holy Communion.
In addition to the prayers and readings found in the traditional Roman rite, one needs only to attend a Byzantine Divine Liturgy to hear several penitential prayers and implorations that precede Eucharistic reception. Nonetheless, we will continue to hear that “Jesus gave communion to Judas” as an attempt to justify the current practice of Biden receiving the Eucharist. But if we are going to compare Biden to Judas, we might remember what Jesus also said of him: “It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24). Are our bishops willing to say that?
[Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]