Ask Father Leo:  When we receive communion, are we also receiving Mary?

Dear Fr. Leo:
Jesus got one hundred percent of his earthly stuff from his mother…her blood type, her DNA, her good looks, etc. So, when we receive the Eucharist, which IS the body and blood of Jesus, aren’t we also receiving her? – M

Dear M:
An interesting speculation. The crux of the matter lies in the distinction between physical presence and sacramental presence.

While closely related, they are not the same.

Regarding the physical, genetic makeup of Jesus, it would be a stretch to say he got everything from the Blessed Mother genetically.

He certainly did not get her sex. He was a boy. So even on the face of it, he is not her genetic twin.

Second, even with genetic twins, there is still a very definite differentiation between individuals.

Finally, the distinction needs to be made between physical presence and how Christ is sacramentally present in the Eucharist. When we talk about how Christ is “truly and substantially present” in the Eucharist, we are talking about what the Eucharist is in its essence, not its physical attributes. That is the whole thrust behind the term “transubstantiation.”

The technical terms that we use to describe this reality are “substance” and “accidents.” Substance describes what is an object or person (identity), and accidents describe what it looks like (physical attributes). One way to appreciate the distinction between substance and accident (identity and attributes) is to look at yourself. Your physical attributes may change over the years, but you remain the same person you always were. You don’t suddenly become someone else because you lose 10 pounds or get a new hairstyle. You retain the same identity you always did even though one of your physical attributes has changed.

In the Eucharist, the process is reversed. The accidents (physical attributes) remain the same while the substance is changed. The bread and wine are transformed at the level of what they are (substance), not their physical attributes (accidents). They retain the physical properties of bread and wine, but in their essence are Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity. This is what we mean by the term “transubstantiation.” Eucharist miracles aside, there is no genetic material from Christ or Mary in the Eucharist. So, the argument from genetics is insufficient to describe the reality of the Eucharist.

However, when you look at the spiritual side of things, you have set your sights too low. When we receive the Eucharist, we are in full communion – union at the very level of being – with Christ and all His Church (triumphant, purified, and pilgrim). So, at the level of being, you are not only united with Christ, but also with the Blessed Mother, all the angels and saints, and every other Christian. That is a much more profound union than merely the physical. As St. Paul tells us, the physical passes away, but we have a “body not made by human hands, eternal in heaven.” (2 Cor 5:1) Our reception of the Eucharist is a real participation in that reality in the present moment, and which comes to fulfillment at the end of this life, and ultimately at the end of the age in the resurrection of the body “when God will be all in all.” (1 Cor 15:28)

Got a question about the Church or the Faith? Fr. Leo Walsh, JCL, STD, is your local canon lawyer and theologian. He currently serves in the Archdiocese as Judicial Vicar and Pastor of St. Patrick’s in Anchorage. Email your question to: lwalsh@caa-ak.org.


'Ask Father Leo:  When we receive communion, are we also receiving Mary?'
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