I am diverting slightly—just slightly—from my “mysticism” series in the interests of swatting away some unhelpful mist (the kind that ends in schism). I am moving from the bench of speculative reflection to my soapbox, just for this one post.
The early Church protected the sacred mystery of the Eucharist from the misunderstanding and profanation of pagans by the disciplina arcani, “discipline of the secret.” This meant that the newly baptized were not introduced the mystery of the Real Presence in the Eucharist until just before they received Holy Communion for the first time. In the context of the Church’s persecution, the pagan misunderstanding of Holy Communion as an act of cannibalism could have dire consequences for both believing Christians and those who needed to be evangelized.
So the motives for this discipline were that of reverence and humility. The practice was eventually abandoned. Even so, since the time of Our Lord’s discourse on the Bread of Life in John 6, there has been this tension between the frank and unapologetic proclamation of the full truth about the Eucharist and the need not to throw our pearls to the swine. Continue reading