As the coronavirus pandemic that has raged across the world for the last eight months continues with no clear end in sight, massive changes have been wrought in our society. Not least among these has been the complete or partial closure of many churches. Some have suspended services altogether; others have shifted to services streamed over the Internet; and others have provided drive-in services. Many churches have been reopened for public services with restrictions (social distancing and use of masks) since the beginning of June; but many continue broadcasts of services for the benefit of those who prefer not to risk in-person attendance.
This unprecedented situation has been the source of much discussion, much of it political, but some theological. I’m not interested in the political aspects of the situation at all. On the other hand, in a discussion in the comments section of a blog I frequent, a very interesting theological issue came up. This was in the specific context of Catholic services, to wit, the Eucharist at Sunday Mass. The question was this: When the priest says the words of consecration of the bread and wine to make them the Body and Blood of Christ, why would it not be possible for those watching at home to have their own portions of bread and wine, and for the priest to include the bread and wine of all home-bound parishioners in his prayers? Could not everyone then receive Communion, even without having to come to Church?