Extraordinary Ministers and Reception in the Hand Standing

The Calvinists treat Almighty God as a servant; the Lutherans as an equal; the Catholics as a God. __ J. O’Brien, History of the Mass (New York, 1888), p. 381.

 

The basic error of most of the innovations is to imagine that the new liturgy brings the holy sacrifice of the Mass nearer to the faithful, that shorn of its rituals the Mass now enters the substance of our lives. For the question is whether we better meet Christ in the Mass by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our workaday world. The innovators would replace holy intimacy with Christ by an unbecoming familiarity. The new liturgy actually threatens to frustrate the confrontation with Christ. It discourages reverence in the face of mystery, precludes awe, and all but extinguishes a sense of sacredness. __ Dietrich von Hildebrand, October issue of Triumph, 1966.

 

Approaching therefore, do not come forward with the palms of the hands outstretched nor with the fingers apart, but making the left [hand] a throne for the right since this hand is about to receive the King. Making the palm hollow, receive the Body of Christ, adding “Amen”. Then, carefully sanctifying the eyes by touching them with the holy Body, partake of it, ensuring that you do not mislay any of it. For if you mislay any, you would clearly suffer a loss, as it were, from one of your own limbs. Tell me, if anyone gave you gold-dust, would you not take hold of it with every possible care, ensuring that you do not mislay any of it or sustain any loss? So will you not be much more cautious to ensure that not a crumb falls away from that which is more precious than gold or precious stones?

Then, after you have partaken of the Body of Christ, come forward only for the cup of the Blood. Do not stretch out your hands but bow low as if making an act of obeisance and a profound act of veneration. Say “Amen”, and sanctify yourself by partaking of Christ’s Blood also. While the moisture is still on your lips, touch them with your hands and sanctify your eyes, your forehead, and all your other sensory organs. Finally, wait for the prayer and give thanks to God, who has deemed you worthy of such mysteries. __ S. Cyrilli, Catechesis mystagogica V, xxi-xxii, ed. Touttee-Maran, S. Cyrilli Hieros. opera omnia, (Venice, 1763), pp. 331-2; reproduced in Migne, PG 33. On the question of the dubious authorship of this work see: J. Quasten, Patrology, vol. III (Utrecht, Antwerp, 1963), pp. 364-366.

 

Article 8

The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion

The non-ordained faithful already collaborate with the sacred ministers in diverse pastoral situations since “This wonderful gift of the Eucharist, which is the greatest gift of all, demands that such an important mystery should be increasingly better known and its saving power more fully shared”.(95)

Such liturgical service is a response to the objective needs of the faithful especially those of the sick and to those liturgical assemblies in which there are particularly large numbers of the faithful who wish to receive Holy Communion.

§ 1. The canonical discipline concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must be correctly applied so as to avoid generating confusion. The same discipline establishes that the ordinary minister of Holy Communion is the Bishop, the Priest and the Deacon.(96) Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are those instituted as acolytes and the faithful so deputed in accordance with Canon 230, § 3.(97)

A non-ordained member of the faithful, in cases of true necessity, may be deputed by the diocesan bishop, using the appropriate form of blessing for these situation, to act as an extraordinary minister to distribute Holy Communion outside of liturgical celebrations ad actum vel ad tempus or for a more stable period. In exceptional cases or in unforeseen circumstances, the priest presiding at the liturgy may authorize such ad actum.(98)

§ 2. Extraordinary ministers may distribute Holy Communion at eucharistic celebrations only when there are no ordained ministers present or when those ordained ministers present at a liturgical celebration are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion.(99) They may also exercise this function at eucharistic celebrations where there are particularly large numbers of the faithful and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers to distribute Holy Communion. (100)

This function is supplementary and extraordinary (101) and must be exercised in accordance with the norm of law. It is thus useful for the diocesan bishop to issue particular norms concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion which, in complete harmony with the universal law of the Church, should regulate the exercise of this function in his diocese. Such norms should provide, amongst other things, for matters such as the instruction in eucharistic doctrine of those chosen to be extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, the meaning of the service they provide, the rubrics to be observed, the reverence to be shown for such an august Sacrament and instruction concerning the discipline on admission to Holy Communion.

To avoid creating confusion, certain practices are to be avoided and eliminated where such have emerged in particular Churches:

— extraordinary ministers receiving Holy Communion apart from the other faithful as though concelebrants;

— association with the renewal of promises made by priests at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, as well as other categories of faithful who renew religious vows or receive a mandate as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion;

— the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass thus arbitrarily extending the concept of “a great number of the faithful”. __ On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest

 

 

The dispensing of Christ’s Body belongs to the priest for three reasons. First, because, as was said above, he consecrates in the person of Christ. But as Christ consecrated His Body at the Supper, so also He gave it to others to be partaken of by them. Accordingly, as the consecration of Christ’s Body belongs to the priest, so likewise does the dispensing belong to him. Secondly, because the priest is the appointed intermediary between God and the people, hence as it belongs to him to offer the people’s gifts to God, so it belongs to him to deliver the consecrated gifts to the people. Thirdly, because out of reverence towards this Sacrament, nothing touches it but what is consecrated, hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest’s hands, for touching this sacrament. Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it, except from necessity, for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency. __ St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, Q. 82, Art. 13.

 

OFFICE FOR THE LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS
OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF

Communion received on the tongue while kneeling

The most ancient practice of distributing Holy Communion was, with all probability, to give Communion to the faithful in the palm of the hand. The history of the liturgy, however, makes clear that rather early on a process took place to change this practice.

From the time of the Fathers of the Church, a tendency was born and consolidated whereby distribution of Holy Communion in the hand became more and more restricted in favor of distributing Holy Communion on the tongue. The motivation for this practice is two-fold: a) first, to avoid, as much as possible, the dropping of Eucharistic particles; b) second, to increase among the faithful devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

Saint Thomas Aquinas also refers to the practice of receiving Holy Communion only on the tongue. He affirms that touching the Body of the Lord is proper only to the ordained priest.

Therefore, for various reasons, among which the Angelic Doctor cites respect for the Sacrament, he writes: “. . . out of reverence towards this Sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest’s hands, for touching this Sacrament. Hence, it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it except from necessity, for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency” (Summa Theologiae, III, 82, 3).

Over the centuries the Church has always characterized the moment of Holy Communion with sacredness and the greatest respect, forcing herself constantly to develop to the best of her ability external signs that would promote understanding of this great sacramental mystery. In her loving and pastoral solicitude the Church has made sure that the faithful receive Holy Communion having the right interior dispositions, among which dispositions stands out the need for the Faithful to comprehend and consider interiorly the Real Presence of Him Whom they are to receive. (See The Catechism of Pope Pius X, nn. 628 & 636). The Western Church has established kneeling as one of the signs of devotion appropriate to communicants. A celebrated saying of Saint Augustine, cited by Pope Benedict XVI in n. 66 of his Encyclical Sacramentum Caritatis, (“Sacrament of Love”), teaches: “No one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it” (Enarrationes in Psalmos 98, 9). Kneeling indicates and promotes the adoration necessary before receiving the Eucharistic Christ.

From this perspective, the then-Cardinal Ratzinger assured that: “Communion only reaches its true depth when it is supported and surrounded by adoration” [The Spirit of the Liturgy(Ignatius Press, 2000), p. 90]. For this reason, Cardinal Ratzinger maintained that “the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a centuries-old tradition, and it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species” [cited in the Letter “This Congregation” of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 1 July 1, 2002].

John Paul II, in his last Encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (“The Church comes from the Eucharist”), wrote in n. 61: “By giving the Eucharist the prominence it deserves, and by being careful not to diminish any of its dimensions or demands, we show that we are truly conscious of the greatness of this gift. We are urged to do so by an uninterrupted tradition, which from the first centuries on has found the Christian community ever vigilant in guarding this ‘treasure.’ Inspired by love, the Church is anxious to hand on to future generations of Christians, without loss, her faith and teaching with regard to the mystery of the Eucharist. There can be no danger of excess in our care for this mystery, for ‘in this sacrament is recapitulated the whole mystery of our salvation.’”

In continuity with the teaching of his Predecessor, starting with the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in the year 2008, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, began to distribute to the faithful the Body of the Lord, by placing it directly on the tongue of the faithful as they remain kneeling.

The liturgy of early ages is worthy of veneration; but an ancient custom is not to be considered better, either in itself or in relation to later times and circumstances, just because it has the flavor of antiquity. More recent liturgical rites are also worthy of reverence and respect, because they too have been introduced under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, who is with the Church in all ages even to the consummation of the world . . .the desire to restore everything indiscriminately to its ancient condition is neither wise nor praiseworthy. It would be wrong, for example, to want the altar restored to its ancient form of a table; to want black excluded from the liturgical colors, and pictures and statues excluded from our churches… This attitude is an attempt to revive the ‘archaeologism’ to which the pseudo-synod of Pistoia gave rise; it seeks also to re-introduce the many pernicious errors which led to that synod and resulted from it and which the Church, in her capacity of watchful guardian of ‘the deposit of faith’ entrusted to her by her Divine Founder has rightly condemned. __ Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 1947.

In view of the state of the Church as a whole today, this manner of distributing Holy Communion [on the tongue] must be observed, not only because it rests on a tradition of many centuries but especially because it is a sign of reverence of the faithful towards the Eucharist. The practice in no way detracts from the personal dignity of those who approach this great Sacrament, and it is part of the preparation needed for the most fruitful reception of the Lord’s Body. __ Pope Paul VI, Memoriale Domini

 

 

Why, one asks oneself, has kneeling been replaced by standing? Is not kneeling the classical expression of adoration? It is in no way limited to being the noble expression of petition, of supplication; it is also the typical expression of reverent submission, of subordination, of looking upwards, and above all it is the expression of humble confrontation with the absolute Lord: adoration. Chesterton said that man does not realize how great he is on his knees. Indeed, man is never more beautiful than in the humble attitude of kneeling, turning towards God. So why replace this by standing? Should kneeling perhaps be prohibited because it evokes associations with feudal times, because it is no longer fitting for ‘democratic’ modern man? Does religious renewal lie in suffering from an unfortunate case of ‘sociologitis’, which nonsensically wants to deduce fundamental human phenomena from a particular historical epoch and kind of mentality? And why can the faithful no longer kneel beside one another at the Communion rail— which is after all a great expression of humanity—why must they march up to the altar goose-step fashion? Is this supposed to correspond to the meal character of Holy Communion [which is stressed so frequently [better than kneeling together in a recollected way? __ Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Devastated Vineyard, pp. 67,68.

 

At one time it would have been unthinkable for anyone without anointed hands to touch the Sacred Species. In this century there has been a steady diminution of outward signs of respect for sacred objects. When I was a boy there was a scale of values. It was understood that anyone could handle a ciborium or monstrance, but only the priest could touch the chalice because it was consecrated. Until recent times we priests kissed each sacred vestment as we put it on, we genuflected before and after touching the Sacred Host. The new rubrics abolished the kissing and reduced genuflections to a minimum… the loss of outward marks of respect lead the simple-minded to lose their sense of reverence. Some have begun to ignore the Blessed Sacrament. They do not genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament and do not kneel in adoration when they come into church. __ Cardinal Heenan, Feb. 2, 1974.

 

Unless we are to believe that the Holy Ghost abandoned the Church for 1,000 years [the 1,000 year period from the time of the 10th Century, when Communion in the hand was forbidden], we must accept the fact that, under His guidance, a tradition evolved that only the consecrated hands of a priest could touch the Host; we have the witness of St. Thomas Aquinas that, by the 13th century, it was firmly established that not even a deacon could do so under normal circumstances. __ Michael Davies, Privilege of the Ordained, p. 16.

 

It must be taught, then, that to priests alone has been given power to consecrate and administer to the faithful, the Holy Eucharist. That this has been the unvarying practice of the Church… as having proceeded from Apostolic tradition, is to be religiously retained. __ The Catechism of the Council of Trent

 

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