Cardinal Cañizares on receiving Communion kneeling, on the tongue

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares de Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, recently recommended that Catholics receive Communion on the tongue, while kneeling.

“It is to simply know that we are before God himself and that He came to us and that we are undeserving… If we trivialize Communion, we trivialize everything, and we cannot lose a moment as important as that of receiving Communion, of recognizing the real presence of Christ there, of the God who is the love above all loves, as we sing in a hymn in Spanish.”

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137 comments

      1. “if one receives while standing, a genuflection or profound bow should be made, and this is not happening.”
        ————————————————-
        Had the cardinal’s CDW made approaching the priest with arms crossed, making a profound bow, and taking the host in the right hand, and bringing it up to the communicant’s mouth a clear set of rubrics from the outset, he might not be witnessing what he thinks is a sloppy and irreverent approach to receiving holy communion today. The laity usually only do what they’ve been instructed to do. Maybe the instruction itself left much to be desired.

        What’s more, why would communicants be showing any more reverence towards the host because only kneeling and taking communion on the tongue are available to them?
        I don’t see his logic. Does a given posture guarantee reverence? Does greater piety spring from kneeling? I don’t think so.
        On several occasions I’ve seen communicants get up from
        the communion rail and throw the host on the floor and
        stomp on it. So, where are the guarantees of an elevated
        eucharistic piety by having everyone kneel.

        Leave the present legislation as it is and permit communicants to choose the posture which works best for them. If standing works for eastern Christians, why wouldn’t it work for Roman rite Catholics?

  1. I doubt any level of cleric would be required to recieve Communion on the tongue while kneeling. Really he is trying to return the laity to a lower place. We (the lowly sheep) need to return to reverence, not the exalted ones. His inference that Communion is trivialized if recieved standing and/or placed in the hand is unadulterated (and ahistorical) nonsense.

      1. Wrote “ordinary priests” in the previous comment because I wasn’t sure about prelates (honorary and non-honorary), but having glanced at the books, it appears they also receive kneeling.

      2. Irrelevant point. When the ’62 Mass was just called “the Mass,” ordinary priests didn’t receive communion except as the priest celebrant — and thus standing and in the hand — as all said one Mass a day and that was the limit on the number of times anyone, lay or cleric, could receive communion.

      3. But this particular remark about the 1962 situation is irrelevant now, since the 1983 canon law allowing multiple daily reception applies now. So one frequently sees priests receiving at an EF Mass after celebrating an earlier Mass. One it is not uncommon for a layman to attend both and OF Mass and an EF Mass on a Sunday, receiving Holy Communion at each. (I have often done so, and know many others.)

      4. Well… the liturgical authors all talk about it, so apparently it happened at least occasionally. The 1917 Code of Canon Law explicitly mentions it in the Case of Holy Thursday:

        Canon 862:

        “Expedit ut feria V maioris hebdomadae omnes clerici, etiam sacerdotes qui ea die a Sacro litando abstinent, sanctissimo Christi Corpore in Missa sollemni seu conventuali reficiantur.”

        From Ed Peter’s translation: “It is expedient that on [Thursday] of the great week all clerics, even priests who abstain from celebrating Sacred [Rites] that day, be refreshed by the Body of Christ in Mass, whether solemn or conventual.”

      5. A reply to Henry Edwards.

        Not so. The whole point seems to be to step into the Wayback Machine to return to the thrilling days of yesteryear — 1962 to be specific. At that time, empirically, priests did not receive communion kneeling or on the tongue, as they only received communion when they celebrated their personal Mass, whether for the parish or community or privately.

      6. Mr. Burke,

        That’s certainly not my “whole point”. Most of the people I attend EF Mass with now were born subsequent to Vatican II, and hence have no memory of those thrilling years of yesterday. Indeed, though they do not know it, the participative high Mass that’s the norm for them is much more Vatican II in nature than the low Mass that was the norm for most way back when. Indeed, some of the practices they experience at an EF Mass–like the whole congregation singing the Pater Noster to the same tune as the Our Father at an OF Mass–are probably effects of the post-conciliar liturgy.

        A case in point may be provided below, taken after a solemn high Mass this week on July 26 at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Charlotte. Aside from the Bishop of Charlotte who assisted in choir (born 1957, ordained 1983), the parish pastor who celebrated the Mass, the 26 priests, clerics, and altar boys who served at the altar and in choir, as well as all the members of the schola that chanted the Mass–all of them (every single one) born after 1970, the majority after 1980, and many even after 1990.

        http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-0sKvtC42cqI/TjB8_BLzLQI/AAAAAAAAETk/jWv7jcjif4M/s1600/charlotte.JPG

        This picture may be more representative of the TLM as seen today, than are outdated memories of times past (back to which nobody I know wants to go).

    1. The whole point seems to be to step into the Wayback Machine to return to the thrilling days of yesteryear — 1962 to be specific.

      That’s your argument? You assertion of “what the trad’s really want” is not reflected in the actual practice of the Church. I just this week saw the rector of the Cathedral Basillica of St. James in Brooklyn kneel on the predella to receive Communion at a Mass celebrated according to the 1962 Missal. I saw two priests do likewise a few weeks ago at a Mass celebrated for the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. This is what is really happening, contra Paul’s assertion that:

      I doubt any level of cleric would be requirecd to recieve Communion on the tongue while kneeling. Really he is trying to return the laity to a lower place.

      and your supposition of nefarious plots of traditionalists to turn back the clock.

      Furthermore, I have called into question your historical assertions as well. The liturgical authors and the canonical legislation of the time both presume that it will happen, at least from time to time that priests will receive Communion at Masses they don’t celebrate, if rarely.

      1. But empirically it did not happen. That is the point. The presumptions you refer to aren’t based in what actually happened.

      2. But Mr. Howard is citing what happened this week, as did I in my preceding comment above. I do not understand the fascination today–when many things are so different–or preoccupation with what happened almost a half century ago.

  2. I doubt any level of cleric would be requirecd to recieve Communion on the tongue while kneeling. Really he is trying to return the laity to a lower place. We need to return to reverence, not the exalted ones. His inference that Communion is trivialized if recieved standing and/or placed in the hand is unadulterated (and ahistorical) nonsense.

  3. It is sad that the value of the cardinal’s assessment of the nature and import of receiving communion was not noticed nor shown the respect which both he and it deserve. We all receive, whether standing or kneeling, with an inevitably insufficiently profound reverence and gratitude. I am not one given to slavish obedience to clerical utterances, but I try to be wary lest I overlook one that demands a sober and judicious countenance. Such as this one. The cardinal is in quite a different league than that of the American bishop who famously said several years ago that kneeling to receive was forbidden in his diocese and those who did kneel would go you know where for disobedience to him. I do not myself think that kneeling is essential, but, the more people churlishly protest against it, the more I wonder if, after all, it is.

    We are singing this Sunday that well-known but profound 5th century hymn from the liturgy of St James, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, in which we sing of Christ descending into the Sacrament ‘our full homage to demand’. Do we sing these words with insincere hearts, tongue-in-cheek? Or, do we mean them? We Americans know nor comprehend very little of ‘homage’ and such. But, there is One who does demand our full homage.

    And, GW, the cardinal most likely does receive in the manner you describe when he is not the celebrant.

    1. I do not see how questioning his statement is any less disrespectful than his assessment that so few take Communion seriously enough, that we need to change posture.

      And here I thought it was only God who had the ability to see into people’s hearts. So naive of me!

    2. M.J.O., a few points:

      If the cardinal is present at mass to receive communion, he is a celebrant. I think it is important that people transferring from other christian churches should have some fundamental grasp of catholic liturgical theology. Each member of the lilturgical assembly is a celebrant. There is one presider of the assembly. All celebrate.

      What’s your reason for examining the conscience of other people? Do you wish to send people on a guilt trip, so that as a result, they will drop to their knees and extend their tongues in a position of passivity? You have already expressed yourself on another thread, in terms which have elicited responses which have used terms such as masochism and arrested psychosexual development.

      When you talk about the respect that someone or someone’s opinion deserves, you appear to predicate this, in this case, on his hierarchical position. It seems that your pathetic (in the descriptive, not the judgmental sense) reaction is based on the fact of his hieratic standing. (Pardon the pun!) The corollary: If the views were those of a Josephine or Joe Soap, would you be moved similarly to sadness, by the short shrift they have been given here?

      For all your verbosity, and declared love of exalted language, may I point out to you that the adjective, different, is followed by the preposition, from!

  4. I have seen many bishops and cardinals receive Holy Communion while kneeling and received on the tongue. They did so when they were not the celebrant or con-celebrant, but rather in choir dress and they kneel as does the laity during the Eucharistic Prayer. When I was stationed at the our cathedral in the late 80’s and early 90’s I was surprised that my former bishop who attended in choir dress a funeral that I celebrated, knelt when the laity knelt and I was actually shocked when he received from me Holy Communion at his kneeler and on the tongue. My question now is, why be surprised at such a thing that has had such a long tradition in our Latin Rite and in many liturgical Protestant communities, such as the Episcopalians, Methodists and Lutherans?
    Also when I was the Master of Ceremonies for our former bishop, I wore choir dress and knelt as everyone else did for the parts that the laity kneel and I received Holy Communion not as a con-celebrant, but after the concelebrating priests as Holy Communion was given to me. I did not “self-communicate.” I could have received either on the tongue or in the hand if I so desired.

    1. Fr. Allan J. McDonald :

      I have seen many bishops and cardinals receive Holy Communion while kneeling and received on the tongue. They did so when they were not the celebrant or con-celebrant, but rather in choir dress and they kneel as does the laity during the Eucharistic Prayer. When I was stationed at the our cathedral in the late 80’s and early 90’s I was surprised that my former bishop who attended in choir dress a funeral that I celebrated, knelt when the laity knelt and I was actually shocked when he received from me Holy Communion at his kneeler and on the tongue. My question now is, why be surprised at such a thing that has had such a long tradition in our Latin Rite and in many liturgical Protestant communities, such as the Episcopalians, Methodists and Lutherans?
      Also when I was the Master of Ceremonies for our former bishop, I wore choir dress and knelt as everyone else did for the parts that the laity kneel and I received Holy Communion not as a con-celebrant, but after the concelebrating priests as Holy Communion was given to me. I did not “self-communicate.” I could have received either on the tongue or in the hand if I so desired.

      I have a number of times seen bishops and cardinals in choir robes receive Holy Communion kneeling, but in the hand. The chalice also, even though not offered to the assembly. What does the Ceremonial say?

    2. Personal choice – why then presume that this should be the stance of the church? As usual, a little Fr. Alan personal tidbit that is used to establish our ecclesiological, eucharistic, and liturgical practice.

      Choir dress – just love it – how much lace?

      1. Choir dress – just love it – how much lace?

        Umm… you realize that choir dress is an official part of the Church’s liturgy? Whether it has lace or not is irrelevant.

      2. As usual, a little Fr. Alan personal tidbit that is used to establish our ecclesiological, eucharistic, and liturgical practice.

        That’s not what I see happening “as usual”. Fr. Allan’s anecdote was not at all about establishing practice, but about an exercise of a current legitimate practice.

    3. Indeed, Fr. McDonald, at a TLM you would never have seen anything else. Other than the celebrant, all other clerics, beginning with the deacon (if any)–and including any bishops and cardinals who are present–always receive Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling.

      Moreover, this has generally been the case at recent papal Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica. The immediate ministers, some monsignori, always receive on the tongue while kneeling, as do usually the cardinal deacons (if any) and many or most of the cardinals present.

      Nor is this unknown at “lesser” OF Masses. I recall a bishop native to my own parish–who was back home to preach the homily at a special Mass–attended in choir dress rather than concelebrating, and knelt to receive on the tongue while kneeling.

    4. Father McDonald, I’ve noticed Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians seem to be all over the map when it comes to posture, especially since the end of the Council.

      Traditionally, Lutherans and Anglicans have knelt, but take
      the host in the right hand. The Anglo Catholics and some
      “high church” Lutherans have taken to receiving the host
      on the tongue, but I think this is still largely the exception and not the rule.

      Unlike our practice of being handed the chalice by the
      deacon or priest, these protestant groups still prefer to tilt the base of the chalice towards their lips rather than taking the chalice into their own hands.

  5. The cardinal is entitled to his views. Tot homines quot sententiae.

    I’m sure he is not under any illusion that people will change their practice simply because A.C. Llovera has declared a preference.

    1. The view of Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments should affect favorably a fair number of faithful Roman Catholics. And surely his voice, added to the growing chorus in this direction, is a positive influence for the restoration of the liturgy.

      Of course, the expression of my personal preference (or yours) will have little effect. Nor should it.

      1. That is, restoration of beauty and reverence to the OF in its typical ars celebranda, and of deeper and more prayerful individual participation, etc. In short, the “reform of the reform” as generally understood.

      2. Restoration implies several things:
        beauty and reverence were typical 50 years ago;
        beauty and reverence have not been typical since;
        rubrics can force reverence and beauty.

        All of these are controversial. Certainly “deeper and more prayerful participation” was the point of the reform after V2, suggesting all three are false.

  6. Let’s not make kneeling or standing a shibboleth of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Both are fine. My problem is with them who turn them into shibboleths.

  7. I know full well the history and practice of the Latin/Western Church, but I still wonder why it is considered proper for the celebrating clergy to receive standing (taking or receiving host in their hands, and drinking directly from the chalice/cup) but that the laity (and non-celebrating clergy) should receive kneeling and the host on the tongue. Are we all not members of the same Body of Christ? In that case what differentiates us in receiving the Resurrected Lord in the Holy Eucharist? As someone else has already pointed out our Eastern Brethren always receive standing (and under both species). Is the difference between the way the celebrating clergy receives and the laity only a matter of ‘historical habit’ because the laity simply did not often receive the Eucharist (Communion in the Body of Christ) for a number of centuries (a situation which eventually gave birth to the devotional ‘spiritual communion’ and the ‘new solemnity’ of Corpus Christi). This situation existed from before IV Lateran till the early 20th century — or is there something more profound at work (in the attitude of the Cardinal among others)?

    1. “In that case what differentiates us in receiving the Resurrected Lord in the Holy Eucharist?”

      In the liturgy, I understand it to be a difference of function rather than one of status.

      The celebrant is acting in persona Christi whereas the lay and other clerics (whatever their ontological or honorary status) are not.

      1. “The celebrant is acting in persona Christi whereas the lay and other clerics (whatever their ontological or honorary status) are not.”

        You need to update your liturgical theology. What the presider does is done on behalf of the worshipping community. Mementes offerimus is plural, although spoken by a single presider.

        Go and look for other reasons to justify your discrimination between the lace-clad and the sans culottes.

  8. When I have the option, I receive standing and in the hand, which is personal preference. I do, however, make a profound bow before receiving, so I agree with the good Cardinal, on that point. In other words, I have no quarrel with either method.

  9. The Cardinal makes the assumption that those receiving are undeserving of the Sacrament. That is eucharistic theology of the middle ages. I sense the old adage that Catholics don’t really believe in the real presence. Recognizing the real presence does not reside in one’s body language while receiving the Sacrament, but rather in ones Amen and the interior acceptance that this is indeed the body and blood of Christ and I am indeed the body and blood of Christ.

      1. Great point Jeffrey!
        How many times ritually do we have to admit our unworthiness? Penitential Act and then Lord, I am not worthy but only say the word and I shall be healed.
        Do you really believe that before you receive the sacrament? If so, does your body language need to then again reflect unworthiness?

      2. How many times ritually do we have to admit our unworthiness?

        You began to enumerate them: the Penitential Act and the Domine, non sum dignus There are also the priest’s prayers of preparation before he receives Communion (which are good for the congregation to meditate upon), and other things through the Communion Rite (“look not on our sins”, “have mercy on us”).

        Do you really believe that before you receive the sacrament? If so, does your body language need to then again reflect unworthiness?

        I wouldn’t necessarily consider bowing the head or body, or kneeling, to be a reflection of our unworthiness to receive Communion, but rather a sign of reverence for our Lord.

        But about repetition… is a particular number of times too many, or is repetition in general? If the latter, we do and say many things in Mass more than once. We ask for mercy plenty of times — should that be reduced to once?

      3. The Middle Ages is usually taken to mean the period between 500 and 1,500 CE.

        All are equally underserving of Holy Communion, but some more equally so than others.

    1. “The Cardinal makes the assumption that those receiving are undeserving of the Sacrament. That is eucharistic theology of the middle ages.”

      Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…

    2. The matter of “worthiness” appears in many of the ancient anaphoras and pre- and post-Communion prayers. Sometimes it is found in a positive context (we are/have-been-made worthy), sometimes in a plaintive context (may we be made holy), and sometimes in a negative or admonitory context (we are not worthy; only for the worthy).

      Books VII and VIII of the Apostolic Constitutions are good examples of all three forms:

      “If any one be holy, let him draw near; but if any one be not such, let him become such by repentance.” (VII, 26)

      “[We give] You thanks, through Him, that You have thought us worthy to stand before You, and to sacrifice to You.” (VIII, 12)

      “May [we] be filled with the Holy Ghost, may [we ]be made worthy of Your Christ.” (VIII, 12)

      “Let us be mindful of the holy martyrs, that we may be thought worthy to be partakers of their trial.” (VIII, 13)

      “Sanctify our body and soul, and […] do not account any of us unworthy.” (VIII, 13)

      “Holy things for holy persons.” (VIII, 13)

      “Now we have received the precious body and the precious blood of Christ, let us give thanks to Him who has thought us worthy to partake of these His holy mysteries.” (VIII, 14)

      “We thank You that You have thought us worthy to partake of Your holy mysteries, which You have bestowed upon us.” (VIII, 15)

      Repetitious, to be sure!

      1. God may have a different opinion. The difference between modesty and humility is that, in the case of the latter, it’s God’s opinion that counts more.

  10. If we’re going to encourage a church of people who can actually act in the world and minister as full adults, then there should be no problem or preference for either kneeling or standing. Different people prefer different ritual postures and we only get limited information as to the ecclesiology of any particular person by ritual gestures. However, we learn a lot of ecclesiology from people who make mandates to kneel at the communion line. Ritually we’re supposed to act as children in this cardinal’s mind, kneeling at the edge of the table begging for whatever food the “elite” is willing to give. This doesn’t encourage acting in the world which the laity need to do. To have ritual encourage acting in the world we need to encourage standing, but not mandate it, as it looks like an adult receiving faith and passing it on, far more than kneeling does.

  11. #33 Jeffrey Pinyan
    Jeffrey,
    I have no problem with bowing or kneeling at communion aas a sign of reverence to our Lord. My comments have been about those postures as signs of our unworthiness, as I was responding to:
    Cardinal Antonio Cañizares de Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, recently recommended that Catholics receive Communion on the tongue, while kneeling.

    “It is to simply know that we are before God himself and that He came to us and that we are undeserving…

    1. It would be nice to see the whole statement with each sentence in context.

      I don’t agree (with the Cardinal, if this is what he is saying) that kneeling is a sign of being undeserving. I see it as a sign of humility and reverence, but not of unworthiness.

    1. In St. Cyril’s day, reception on the hands was practice with a reverence almost unknown today. Actually, it might be called “reception by mouth”, since after the host was deposited on the enthroned right hand, rather than grab it with the left hand, the communicant bowed profoundly to take it from his hand with his mouth.

      So one should not assume that–because communion in the hands is so often casual and thoughtless today–it has to be that way. There’s nothing absolute either way. What betokens reverence in one time or place may betray irreverence in another.

      Just as having a beard may mean opposite things in different cultures.

      1. I just don’t see the casual and thoughtless reception of Communion these days. More reading of people’s hearts. An amazing skill I have yet to develop.

        (And as if there is no casual or thoughtless reception while kneeling, and on the tongue!)

      2. I am a pastor of souls. Those who choose to receive communion in the hand aren’t grabbing it with either hand. The cardinal has a point of view which he should have kept to himself lest people suppose he is speaking authoritatively. If I’m not mistaken the good cardinal is from Spain where among the diminishing number of catholics actually practicing the faith are some who equate a particular form of piety with reverence and devotion. I believe this is insulting nonsense. Jesus never gave anyone communion on the tongue while they were kneeling in awed adoration. The apostles and all the others in the upper room were reclining and could only have barely fathomed what he was doing.

    2. I would commend those who receive Holy Communion in the hand in the reverent manner described by St. Cyril (perhaps with the exclusion of the “hallowing of the eyes”):

      Make your left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King. And having hollowed your palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying over it, Amen. So then after having carefully hallowed your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, partake of it; giving heed lest you lose any portion thereof; for whatever you lose, is evidently a loss to you as it were from one of your own members. For tell me, if any one gave you grains of gold, would you not hold them with all carefulness, being on your guard against losing any of them, and suffering loss? Will you not then much more carefully keep watch, that not a crumb fall from you of what is more precious than gold and precious stones? (Cat. XXIII, 21)

  12. As an extrordianry minister of Communion, I have the honor of serving the Body of the Lord to a hundred or more of my sisters and brothers each Sunday. I don’t see the widespread casual or thoughtless approach to the sacrament that others have asserted in this thread. There are occasions, to be sure, even among the “tongues” but they are far and away the exception and not the norm in my parish.

    1. Mr. Boman, I agree. With perhaps, the occasional communicant treating the Body of the Lord as finger food
      at a party (usually a teenager), I’ve generally noticed over the years both here in the US and abroad very few signs of irreverence by people approaching the extraordinary minister or celebrant/deacon.

      Maybe all that’s called for is better catechesis in places where there is a problem of a slovenly or sloppy reception, but I have a hard time imagining where these might be.

  13. I am very much in sympathy with those who see a problem in the distinction between the way priests receive and lay people receive communion. At the same time I am not sure (after all these years) that the communion line really works. It seems to encourage a kind of “liturgical consumerism.” I have a better experience in the Episcopal churches where they tend to form a cohort around the altar, either standing or kneeling. At least that seems to convey the notion of horizontal as well as vertical communion.

    1. Appreciate your thoughts – have experienced at times a peaceful and reverent deliberateness in some communities in which the eucharistic procession has a slow but dignified speed; EMs make eye contact and proclaim Body or Blood of Christ and the processional music appears to be known and sung by >80% of the participants. Have also found that this seems to work best in a church without pews so that the eucharistic action seems to be of one piece; the music is usually a chant or Taize hymn that all know. Wonder too if the type of eucharistic bread has an impact – Deacon Fritz talks about his parish baking and using their own bread – this probably requires a little more time in the breaking, sharing, and eating – and wonder if the positioning of EMs can be more linked to the eucharistic table?

      Just some randomn thoughts.

  14. Fr. Baldovin, your point is well taken. I’ve seen the cohort approach, and I’ve also seen Episcopal communities which use the communion line approach. I will confess that I’m having a hard time envisioning how the cohort style would work in a large crowded parish liturgy. In you experience, is it less cumbersome than I’m imagining?
    Mr. Harding, one additional point. I’ve noticed that in my very ethnically diverse parish community, there are some differences in approaching the reception of Eucharist which seem to be culturally based. For instance, many, if not most of the South Asian/Bangla folks will hold their hands out then take the host between their thumb and fore finger. It is certainly done with great reverence, but it is a difference in style.

  15. In this past year I have begun to use a cane which slows down the way that I receive communion since I bow, place the cane over my left arm, take communion in my hands, consume, then take the cane again in my right hand before turning slowly away.

    What I have discovered is that communion in many parishes is a very rushed affair, that one needs to walk quicker than I would like to walk now, and people receive communion quicker than I receive it now.

    One of the reasons for this quickness is that many large parishes use multiple communion ministers, e.g. six for each form. That makes the lines go very quickly.

    I guess I could receive communion on the tongue and hold onto my cane with my hands; perhaps some day that will be necessary. However I like the little ceremony with the cane that I have developed that slows everything down. It makes everything more personal, less mechanical, and more dignified.

    I have always liked walking sticks, and admired canes, and so I readily accepted a physician’s advice to be on the safe side, and have acquired a fine set of canes and walking sticks in various liturgical colors. Maybe as we all age we can give the communion procession a greater sense of dignity and reverence by reviving the fashionable use of canes and walking sticks.

    1. The real Catholic “tradition” is either few if any laypeople receiving Holy Communion, and, if they do, for it to be rushed. Not much of a tradition to get misty-eyed over. Marching in phalanxes to kneel at the altar rail was no less rushed or capable of mindlessness than the standing procession mind (Ah, yes, I remember it well, sang Maurice Chevalier). Any ritual motion, once it becomes routine (which will tend to happen when it is ritualized, and that’s just an observation not a criticism) is capable of this. Perfunctory kneeling at the rail, once it becomes dominant and routinized, loses the quality that it has right now as something chosen intentionally and warmly. If I cared deeply about cultivating that aspect of the posture/gesture, the last thing I’d want is for it to become routinized. (However, if it were more important to me for its shibboleth quality, then I might feel differently.)

  16. Mr. Rakosky, please keep doing what you do. The Communion rite takes all the time it needs. Even though, as Fr. Baldovin points out, it may look like an assembly line, Communion time for the community is the sum of many individual sacramental moments. No need for you to rush.

  17. Regarding Comment #21 by Glen Bateman, which has this assertion:

    “New terms like ‘presider’ for the priests and ‘assembly’ for the congregation are popular in some circles, especially among progressives but are not used all that frequently outside progressive circles even when those terms are employed by publishers.”

    I guess those “progressive circles” include the authorized ICEL English translation of the GIRM (2002). Please refer to paragraph 27, the opening of the second chapter, which edifyingly instructs, “At Mass — that is, the Lord’s Supper — the People of God is called together, with a priest presiding and acting in the person of Christ, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord, the Eucharistic Sacrifice. For this reason Christ’s promise applies in an outstanding way to such a local gathering of the holy Church: ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.’ … Christ is really present in the very liturgical assembly gathered in his name, in the person of the minister, in his word, and indeed substantially and continuously under the Eucharistic species.”

    The terms “presider” and “assembly” are not mere publisher’s affectations, but instead are at the heart of Catholic Eucharistic theology, and as such deserve everyone’s respect. It is not Gerald who is pretending.

  18. As a pastor, I started distributing communion at the altar rail (the first pew). The law permits both reception in the hand or on the tongue, standing or kneeling. I did’t force reception either way, but emphized reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. I taught about the reverence observed in patristic times receiving communion in the hand and of the historical development of receiving communion on the tongue kneeling. Then I let the people choose. People generally slowed down and were more reverent in their communion, and the reception of Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue gradually became the posture of choice. I say, teach the people the various forms and make them an available option. The trditional postures that convey great reverence will gradually replace the modern tendency to rush and be flippant.

    1. Glad this works for you. Merely suggest that you focus on “reverence” when there is so much more to the communal eucharistic action….would start with teaching folks proper eucharistic theology and ecclesiology; how to receive should devolve from that and should clearly indicate the standard practice of the US. Sorry, but in my opinion you are setting up an internal conflict that shifts from the communal action to a personal, individual choice in the middle of the communal action. Would compare this to “intinction” – we don’t do it.

      1. An internal conflict that shifts from the communal action to a personal, individual choice in the middle of the communal action.

        There’s no conflict. Receiving Communion is both communal and personal. Or should we give everyone Communion at the same time so we can all consume it simultaneously? Should we require everyone to receive under both kinds?

        Would compare this to “intinction” – we don’t do it.

        We do plenty of stuff now that we didn’t do once.

      2. Jeffrey – my point exactly; it is both/and. My read of Sanchez is too far one way.

        Your dismissal of my parallel example of intinction is what – inability to respond carefully and thoughtfully?

        The liturgy was reformed – you argue to go backwards or multiple options that weaken our communal understanding – signs and symbols speak to us.

      3. Your dismissal of my parallel example of intinction is what – inability to respond carefully and thoughtfully?

        To be honest, I’m not sure what the “parallel example” is. You spend all of four words on it. Could you clarify it? What are you comparing to intinction? Kneeling to receive Communion? Receiving Communion on the tongue? But some Latin Catholics do still do those. So what are you comparing intinction to that we also don’t do?

        What is the whole problem with intinction?

        The liturgy was reformed – you argue to go backwards or multiple options that weaken our communal understanding – signs and symbols speak to us.

        The reformed liturgy makes the allowance for multiple ways to receive Communion. Where am I saying we should go backward?

        And you say that multiple options weaken our communal understanding — why isn’t that the case with the multiple options for greetings (and responses to greetings!) or Penitential Acts or collects or selections of readings or Creeds to use or Prefaces or even Eucharistic Prayers?

        Why is it that options for receiving Communion is backward and weakening, when these other options presumably aren’t?

  19. Fr Sanchez would seem to have chosen a wise path. I, like many above, do not think that receiving either standing or kneeling guarantees in and of itself the due reverence and gratitude. I do not sense any difference within myself as I have occasion to recieve in both ways. I do, though, feel the greatest awe when taking the sacrament into my mouth from the enthroned hand as opposed to receiving on the tongue. If there is any minus at all attached to standing, it may be that one is sometimes conscious not to take too long or hold up the line by receiving unhurriedly (though this can also be said of kneeling). Also, for some, it would seem that standing is more a badge of equality and pride of standing than would seem appropriate when receiving God into their hands. This may be more an issue within our American culture than it would be amongst our Orthodox brethren.

    There is one oddity in all this with which I am uncomfortable: it seems to have somehow become the adopted practice in parishes of the Anglican Use to receive both species by intinction on the tongue. This has never represented Anglican usage and feels quite a foreign imposition.

    And: thanks to the cardinal for a fruitful conversation and some never-inappropriate self examination.

  20. At a parish where I gave a presentation on Eucharistic adoration during the season of Advent, I received a bit of friction on the subject of receiving Communion on the tongue. I had planned on mentioning the various ways people receive Communion (the context being the signs of reverence we show to Jesus in the Eucharist during Mass):

    When it comes time for us to receive Holy Communion, some people receive while standing, others while kneeling. The Church calls for those of us who receive standing to make a sign of reverence (a bow of the head) before we receive. Some Catholics receive in the hand, others on the tongue; whichever way you receive, do so in a reverent and worthy manner, because it is no ordinary food you are privileged to consume, it is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ!

    It was recommended to me not to mention receiving on the tongue because the pastor did not want to encourage it.

    1. Jeffrey,

      I think we need to be clear that the norm in the US for receiving communion is standing. While no one who kneels can be refused communion according to the GIRM, standing is the norm. Proper catechesis should be provided on the reason for this norm.

      “The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm. When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the body of the Lord from the minister” (160).

      1. Fr. Allan – always amazes me that you advocate for broader options in some cases (kneeling for communion even to putting out kneelers?) when it clearly is not the USCCB position and yet you argue for more restrictions in other cases. The OF and standing are the standard rite for the US….have seen enough risks involved when folks receiving the eucharist suddenly knee jerk into a genuflection kicking or tripping the person behind them; kneeling before an EM disrupting the eucharistic procession, etc.

        Sorry, but technically allowing an individual the option sounds good but can fail practically. Would also reiterate the need for individual catechesis – there is an ecclesiology and communal/eucharistic theology involved in the USCCB GIRM. Receiving the eucharistic is a communal action; not an individual action – you set up a visible contradiction. Yes, it sounds good but it creates in any specific celebration the same dissonance and questions raised by these interminable blogs citing OF, EF, etc., etc.

      2. Receiving Holy Communion, Bill, is both a communal and personal action, not either/or, but both/and. I’m all in favor of intinction because it is an option in the USA adaptation of the GIRM, yet you fail to acknowledge that it is there although you acknowledge that standing is the norm in the current USA adaption. But kneeling is a option that Catholics have in this very same GIRM adaptation, but because your post Vatican II read of theology, you think it is wrong. Why be so narrow?

  21. When we renovated my current parish church in 2004 (before the two forms of the one Latin Rite), we removed the altar railing in order to expand the sanctuary and put in a new free-standing altar to replace the “ironing board” one that had been in use shortly after Vatican II. After SP, I had to place kneelers out for people to kneel at the EF Mass for Holy Communion. While most kneel for Holy Communion in this form of the Mass, a few stand and it is not difficult to give them Holy Communion over the kneeler. If we are to be truly liberal in our interpretation of what is allowed in the OF Mass in terms of how one receives Holy Communion, I think it most appropriate that a kneeler be placed in front of the priest or EMC so that people truly have a choice to kneel or stand. I suspect that Fr. Sanchez is correct, eventually most people will prefer to kneel rather than to stand once the stigma of kneeling as some for of disobedience is removed. I know that this suggestion and observation will drive some progressives wild who wish to imposed upon the laity a rigidity that is not in the OF’s liturgical law when it comes to the manner of how one is allowed to receive Holy Communion. By the way, the link in an above comment by Chris Castell to Archbishop Vincent Nicol’s pastoral letter on how to receive Holy Communion is very enlightening and progressive. I regret though that the Archbishop does not recommend a kneeler be available so that those who wish to kneel don’t have to do so on the hard floor, making kneeling quite difficult and impractical for most people. A kneeler would be an act of Christian hospitality in welcoming those who wish to kneel for Holy Communion. Restoring the altar railing is another solution that enables what Fr. John Baldwin writes above about forming a “cohort around the altar.” Kneeling for Holy Communion in this fashion would take longer and slow down this important liturgical action of the Mass.

    1. Fr. Allan,

      I think your suggestion that we put out a kneeler for communion during the OF does not honor what the GIRM recognizes as the norm. While anyone who kneels during reception of communion should not be denied communion it should not be encouraged. The GIRM says:
      “The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm. When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the body of the Lord from the minister” (160).

      So, rather than putting out your kneeeler you might think about providing what the GIRM calls proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.

      1. I know what the GIRM for the USA teaches. Therefore I do not put out a kneeler at the OF Mass. However, I think we can effectively voice our dissent against a rather rigidly imposed legislation that really does not respect a person’s right to choose in this area. It marginalizes that person. The United Kingdom legislation is much clearer and more in line with the universal norm of the Church. The American bishops, or at least local bishops should allow for the option of kneeling or standing and make that option crystal clear.

    2. It’s Fr. Baldovin, SJ….have you read his works? Pretty sure that Fr. would not agree with how you have interpreted his “cohort around the altar” separated by an altar rail? But you have found another justification for kneeling – why, it will slow down the liturgical action.

      My memories of communion rails, the sheeting that was thrown over the rail at communion time, etc. are no different than those expressed so well in above comments. It was a cattle call that was rushed…..human nature being human nature, any ritual can become rushed. Please, let’s not suddenly grasp at straws.

  22. The Cardinal’s position is contrary to the norm stated in the GIRM. The GIRM states:

    “The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm. When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the body of the Lord from the minister” (160).

    While communicants who kneel cannot be denied communion, they should be catechized to the reason for this norm.

    1. The GIRM (for the US) has been amended in the forthcoming missal, and there is no longer any mention of catechesis on the reasons for the norm. Kneeling is simply presented as an alternative to the norm, according to the preference of the individual who receives.

      At any rate, the Cardinal is not an American, and his recommendation is not contrary to the universal GIRM which says the faithful may receive kneeling or standing, according to the determination of the conference of bishops.

      1. Robert,
        You are not correct. The GIRM paragraph 160 of the new GIRM does indeed mention the need for catechesis on the norm for those who wish to kneel. You might want to go to the USCCB site and read it. What I said is what is in the GIRM. It also does not present kneeling as an alternative to the norm.

      2. Mike, you are referring to the older 2002 version of the GIRM for the US, which is still posted at the USCCB site.

        In regard to the new version approved by the Holy See for the 2011 Roman Missal, Robert is correct. The

        OLDER USA ADAPTATION VERSION:
        … The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.

        is replaced with the

        NEWER USA ADAPTATION VERSION:
        … The norm established for the Dioceses of the United States of America is that Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling.

        Note that there is now no mention of addressing the instances “pastorally” or giving “properly catechizing” people who kneel for reception.

      1. Maybe you should speak for yourself, I know plenty of people who kneel to eat and they do it at Mass and home when no chair is to be found at the dinning table. It’s better than standing, puts you closer to the food and you can place your elbows on the table, but it helps to have a cushion. 🙂

      2. “It’s better than standing.”

        Maybe YOU shoud speak for yourself.

        I must admit I have never seen anyone eating or drinking on their knees. But, of course, the plenty of people you know who do this make it likely that it won’t be very long before it becomes the norm. Then you’ll have a sensible argument.

        Another daft EF form will have been instituted.

        Get real!

      3. Jeffrey – do some research. Historical and liturgical and cultural reasons for standing as a sign of respect, involvement, and participation.

        Also, in some cultures kneeling is a sign of debasement…..the exact opposite of what I think you mean by kneeling in our culture.

      4. Gerard – I also usually don’t eat and drink such a tiny amount of food at a meal. I’m curious what you think of the Eastern practices of receiving Communion.

        What is the catechesis for why, in other places (and times), Catholics do receive kneeling? Or is receiving Communion while kneeling simply wrong?

      5. Bill – “Do some research.” Is that the pastoral catechesis that a priest gives to a communicant who wants to know the norm?

        Is kneeling NOT a sign of respect, involvement, or participation? And for the time being, let’s consider American culture(s), since we’re talking about the US adaptation to the GIRM. Is kneeling a a posture of debasement in the US? Could it not be devotion?

      6. J.P.

        If you are interested in seeking an answer to the discrepancy between the amount of drink you consume at a eucharist and the amount you consume at a meal, if you are not simply engaging in a sparring match, may I suggest a more enlightening comparison, namely, that you compare the amount of wine or champagne (or whatever your favourite beverage is) which you consume at a toast, with the amount your drink when receiving communion.

        The ritual similarities between the eucharist and the cultural phenomenon of toasting are crystal clear: At a toast, words of blessing (bene dicere) are pronounced while the glass is raised. The consuming of the liquid has the ritual effect of expressing agreement with the words spoken.

        The consuming of the wine, over which the anaphora has been spoken is a ritual means for expressing agreement with the sentiments of the anaphora. It is a reiteration, or reinforcement of the Great Amen. The chalice is raised during the Great Amen in mimetic manner.

        So the amount of consecrated wine you consume at the eucharist is commensurate with the amount you drink when engaging in the ritual action which most closely resembles the action of eucharist.

      7. Gerard – Thank you for the comparison to a toast; that had never crossed my mind, or it had never been presented so cogently before. (It probably had been brought up here before, but I can’t remember.)

      8. In response to Gerard Flynn’s first response to Jeffrey: If communion posture was meant to mimic the way people eat and drink at other meals, then why weren’t communion rails replaced with long counters lined with chairs? Most people eat sitting down for serious family meals, and only eat standing when out at an event that lacks chairs or they are in a hurry.

        A lot of people sit on the floor to eat too, why can’t we receive communion sitting on the floor? I probably sit on the floor to eat far more than i stand.

    2. The universal GIRM says kneeling is done from the epiclesis until after the acclamation after the consecration. The US adaptation says we kneel from after the Sanctus until after the Amen.

    3. So, you’re going to have to make up your own mind, when the norms are conflicting.

      Moral: Dispense with norms when appropriate and use your God-given judgement.

  23. I rejoiced when the America bishops decided that there should be communion in the hand and on the tongue and that it would be up to the communicant to decide. A real step forward in Christian freedom and adulthood for the laity!

    Similarity we should be able to stand or kneel at communion, and also during the Eucharist Prayer as we feel inspired. We should be able to stand, sit or kneel after communion.

    We should raise our hands or join hands at the Lord’s Prayer as we see fit.

    People should be welcome to make the signs of the Cross, bow their heads, make profound bows, genuflections, etc as they see fit.

    One of the most beautiful parts of the church year is the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday. At one of the local parishes, people are strongly encouraged to express their veneration in a variety of ways as they see fit. It is wonderful to contemplate the various people and their expressions.

    Of course this diversity of expression during the Mass may at times require a little organization (certain areas for kneeling, others for standing) but that organization should be responsive to the diverse desires of the people rather than imposed from above. In other words, don’t organize it unless it is necessity.

    What we should avoid at all costs is “catechesis.” Often it is pious nonsense, usually high selective information on the topic, often to the point of untruth, and given with a tone of superiority to the unwashed and illiterate. (we will get a lot of that as the New Missal is introduced).

    We should also avoid silent messages, e.g. “you can stand or kneel during communion but we known that when people have a choice they will prefer kneeling.” They may not, especially as our population grays.

    We should also discourage people from becoming exhibitionist examples to others of their superior piety. That may require some tack, but we have Jesus words and examples in the Gospel to help us warn people about this.

    1. What we should avoid at all costs is “catechesis.” Often it is pious nonsense, usually high selective information on the topic, often to the point of untruth, and given with a tone of superiority to the unwashed and illiterate. (we will get a lot of that as the New Missal is introduced).

      Could you give an example of the sort of “catechesis” you’re writing about?

      1. See my critique of Bishop Arthur Serratelli catechesis on the Greeting of the Mass to begin to understand the things about catechesis that I dislike

        Actually the bishop did very well in comparison to most people because he stuck to Scripture most of the time.

  24. We are all undeserving of the sacrament. That’s why we need it. The entire point of the Christian religion is to strip ourselves of pride in ourselves and to put on the dignity of Christ. The whole “we’re awesome because we’re baptized priests prophets and kings” meme needs to be toned down. We laity have made a horrible mess of civilization, and don’t have much to be prideful about.

    1. I don’t see how an interlinear translation is a ‘corrected’ translation.

      I’d stick to the history, if I were you. There’s no future in it.

  25. #83 Henry Edwards

    Henry,
    You left off some information from what you pasted in your post from Fr. Z’s website:

    NEWER USA ADAPTATION VERSION:
    … The norm established for the Dioceses of the United States of America is that Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum, March 25, 2004, no. 91).

    The rest of GIRM 160 remains as it was.

    There is no mention of addressing the instances “pastorally” or giving “properly catechizing” people who kneel to receive their GOD.

    In other words, when people kneel to receive Almighty GOD, priests and other ministers are to give Communion to the person and keep their mouths shut.

    Ok here is paragraph 91 of Redemptionis Sacramentum:
    [91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”.[177] Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.

    And yes true there is no mention of catechesis in RS 91. But there is in GIRM 160.

    When the GIRM was presented to Rome there was a concern about people who kneel being denied communion. It is addressed in the new GIRM paragraph 160, which is on the USCCB website.

    Could you please produce a copy or point us to this revised GIRM you refer to?

    1. Mike, this confusion about the US-adapted GIRM is understandable. The USCCB site still has posted the allegedly soon-to-be-obsolete English translation of the MR 3e GIRM that was published in 2003 by the USCCB and approved for the dioceses of the United States.

      Until quite recently, everyone assumed that this was an official final English translation of the GIRM for the Roman Missal 3rd edition. However, it now apparently turns out that this (still-posted) 2003 text was intended only as a provisional translation. Now we hear that the forthcoming new English translation will contain a new translation of the GIRM. I am not aware that this new 2011 translation of the GIRM is yet posted online anywhere.

      As I understand it, you are quoting from paragraph 160 (with its reference to “catechesis”) in the soon-to-be-obsolete but still USCCB-posted version of 2003 GIRM. Whereas, Father Z is quoting from paragraph 160 (without any such “catechesis” reference) from the new 2011 GIRM that will be contained in the forthcoming Roman Missal 3/e, which in a very few months we will have in our hands to see for ourselves. (Or perhaps even sooner, if and when the USCCB replaces its posting of the provisional 2003 GIRM with the final 2011 GIRM.)

      1. Henry,
        Thanks for your response. I guess I find it a bit hard to believe that the missal is at the printers and
        bishops and dioceses are using a provisional text. I have contacts at USCCB- stay tuned.

      2. Mike: As I understand it, it is entirely proper for the USCCB to still be posting the 2003 provisional text of the GIRM, assuming that the 2011 text in the English translation of the Roman Missal 3/e becomes official only with that missal itself on the First Sunday of Advent in 2011.

  26. Don, yes we are unworthy, but we are in fact priests prophets, and kings by virtue of Baptism. Where are you getting this idea that the “entire point” of Christianity is to strip ourselves of pride… Humility is a key virtue of our faith to be sure, but like obedience, it is not a virtue in isolation. The laity are not the only ones who have made a mess. Over the centuries, the hierarchy have done more than their share of damage ecclesial and secular. Despite this we though undeserving are invited to the table. Remember, “Christian, know thy dignity.”

  27. Only comments with a full name will be approved.

    RP Burke :

    A reply to Henry Edwards.
    Not so. The whole point seems to be to step into the Wayback Machine to return to the thrilling days of yesteryear — 1962 to be specific. At that time, empirically, priests did not receive communion kneeling or on the tongue, as they only received communion when they celebrated their personal Mass, whether for the parish or community or privately.

    Except when the priest didn’t say mass that day, for whatever reason (illness, handicap, impossibility, etc.) If the rubricists devoted themselves to the contingency, they probably had a reason for doing so.

  28. This is a reply to the (current, since numbers do shift!) #73, part of the exchange between Jeffrey Pinyan and Bill deHaas on intinction.

    Jeffrey Pinyan states:

    “What is the whole problem with intinction?
    ‘The liturgy was reformed – you argue to go backwards or multiple options that weaken our communal understanding – signs and symbols speak to us.’
    The reformed liturgy makes the allowance for multiple ways to receive Communion. Where am I saying we should go backward?
    And you say that multiple options weaken our communal understanding — why isn’t that the case with the multiple options for greetings (and responses to greetings!) or Penitential Acts or collects or selections of readings or Creeds to use or Prefaces or even Eucharistic Prayers?”

    I think what is relevant is GIRM paragraph 287, which describes how intinction is done if it is to be done – it involves “each communicant holding a communion plate under the chin, approaching the priest who holds a vessel with the sacred particles, a minister standing at his side holding the chalice” and the priest doing the dipping of the host.

    That suggests that intinction isn’t a relevant comparable example of liturgical “free choice” about multiple ways to receive Communion – the GIRM presupposes that if intinction is happening, it is happening for everyone (because 287 makes it quite clear that no one is meant to “self-intinct” – though my community has a particular communicant who does this Sunday after Sunday, with no communion plate to catch the resultant drips of Precious Blood!) …

    And I also think that there could be sensible, non-condescending, scripturally based catechesis about why drinking from the chalice is a “fuller, stronger Eucharistic symbol” (for example, using ideas from the relevant commentary in the very useful 2007 Liturgical Press commentary on the GIRM) …

    Re whether “multiple options” weaken communal understanding — how do you…

    1. Julie – Please do post another comment to finish your thought in the last paragraph!

      Intinction does present some tricky issues: it means both species are received (and some people prefer only to receive under one species) and it must not be given in the hand (which is how many people prefer to receive). So I think it would be pastorally appropriate and sensitive if intinction were offered as an option, not as the only mode of reception, in a given celebration of Mass. In other words, there would be an intinction “station” among others.

      Admittedly, this could make it look like there are different types of Communion being received, rather than just different modes of reception (which I believe is the reality).

      As for drinking from the chalice, I would agree with you.

      Now, what were you saying about options and communal understanding?

  29. Finishing my previous comment (sorry that it got cut off, I thought I had it counted to the last character!) — how do you then read GIRM paragraph 42 on unity of posture? It seems to suggest that the ideal is striving to foster common choices in the assembly’s posture (which I think would include many of the places where you suggested what I referred to as “liturgical free choice”) as itself a way to both reflect and build the unity of the assembled Body of Christ.

    1. I agree that GIRM 42 promotes unity of posture and, incorporating one of Paul’s comments below, the inability of a person to assume a posture (such as kneeling or even bowing) is certainly nothing to vilify a person for. I would also say that people who have to assume a different posture than the norm should be regarded as exceptions and not made into the rule — if a person with bad knees or a bad back has to sit for the Gospel, we needn’t worry that we’re not showing our unity and solidarity with him or her by our standing.

      I’m all for expressing and fostering unity via common postures. At the same time, I would not wish to make posture a matter of division: people avoid a particular parish because they can’t kneel there, or one Mass is attended by the kneelers and another by the standers. The Church permits kneeling and standing for Communion (as per Euch. Myst. 34) and so a person is permitted to receive either way, despite a bishop’s conference’s decision to which is the norm. (Red. Sac. 91)

      From the technical perspective, a difference of posture is permitted after Communion (when one can stand, kneel, or sit), as per the official interpretation of the CDW (Prot. N. 855/03/L), and even where standing is the normative posture for receiving Communion, it is “with the stipulation that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds.” (Prot. n. 1322/02/L)

  30. Regarding standing:

    (1) Re-read Tertullian on standing as a gesture of respect (we stand up when the President or the Queen or indeed the priest comes into the room; and we stand to listen to the Gospel). For Tertullian, kneeling was a posture of self-abasement, not one of devotion or respect.

    (2) A significant proportion of people cannot kneel easily or, if they do, cannot then get up again easily. Are we to condemn them as being somehow less reverent?

    Regarding on the tongue or in the hand:

    When the bishops of the north of England were undergoing in-service training in the early 1970s, they were instructed to peel an orange and feed segments of it directly into the mouth of the bishop on either side of them. In the ensuing discussion, they all agreed that the thing they disliked most about that was having food placed directly into their mouths. The facilitator told them “That’s what you do to the faithful at every Mass.” Within 6 months, Communion in the hand was an approved option.

    Anthropologically we only place food directly into the mouths of babies and the elderly who can no longer feed themselves. I do not believe that when Jesus said “Take this and eat it” he was envisaging the “childish” delivery of a “plastic disk” directly onto the tongue. He was talking about the normal human manner of eating, which is to feed oneself.

    (ctd)

    1. Regarding intinction:

      (a) Intinction removes the choice of whether to receive in the hand or on the tongue.

      (b) It is, unfortunately, being used as a yardstick of personal holiness in some quarters. People are thought of as being more reverent because they use this method.

      (c) It reappeared largely as a reaction to the AIDS epidemic and the fear of catching a disease by Communion from the cup. Modern medical science, however, has demonstrated that it is not possible to catch AIDS by drinking from the chalice, since human saliva contains an enzyme which kills the fragile AIDS virus as soon as it comes into contact with it. The only people at risk from drinking from the chalice are those with AIDS, since their immune systems are non-functional.

      (d) Jesus told us to take and eat, and to take and drink. He did not say “Take and dunk” or dip. When intinction first came in, roughly in the 9th-10th centuries, the Church rebelled against it. The only person who dipped with Jesus was Judas Iscariot, and we don’t want to be like him, ran the argument. Within less than two centuries, intinction had vanished as a normal way of receiving Communion.

      It had only appeared because of the emerging view among some clergy that the laity were not worthy to touch the sacred elements or vessels, even though for the previous nine centuries this had not been a problem. One might say, therefore, that historically intinction is not so much about reverence as about clericalism.

      The result of intinction appearing and then disappearing in the space of some 200 years was that we moved from a situation where Communion in the hand and from the cup was the norm to one where Communion on the tongue and under the form of bread alone was the norm. This in turn necessitated the invention of the doctrine of Concomitance.

      1. Paul

        You are being rather breezy and selective here. It reads like the mirror image of the way Fr Z argues. Maybe that was your purpose.

        For example, we are not limited to the Patristic age’s concepts of posture. Kneeling is not only capable of being read as self-abasement, or as a posture of feudal fealty, but it also, very importantly, is a gesture of openness to loving service (a connotation it attained in western culture during the same period it acquired the other connotation of feudal fealty). Interestingly, that is the very connotation Jesus gave it at the Last Supper. In the USA, kneeling has never had the connotation of feudal fealty, so that’s not an issue for us, while it might be more mixed matter for you in the UK…..

        I think turning standing vs kneeling into an issue of “Who’s Better” is no less a problem under your mode of argument than it is under Fr Z’s – both modes are, in the end, selective and opportunistic rationalizations to promote a specific brand of allegiance to a specific vision.

        Also, the issue of germs and the common cup: the studies that have been done have been done regarding bacteria, not viruses (which are not the same in terms of durability). Where I live, the issue has largely come about because of influenza, not AIDS, though sensitivity to the immuno-suppressed (first cancer, then AIDS) preceded this by a generation. And we should remember that intinction is widely practiced in other Christian communions, so while we might well argue it has never been a dominant practice in the Roman rite, we would do well to avoid polemic against it.

        Et cet.

      2. The story about the Bishop’s in-service seemed strange to me – did these Bishops never have to receive communion before like laypeople do? Nobody noticed that feeding someone an item of food bit by bit isn’t really comparable to receiving one host at Mass? So in order to get communion on the tongue back we just have to organize an in-service where the Bishops have to eat something awkwardly with their hands?

      3. did these Bishops never have to receive communion before like laypeople do? Nobody noticed that feeding someone an item of food bit by bit isn’t really comparable to receiving one host at Mass?

        No, as matter of fact they hadn’t done for many years, not since they were laypeople.

        It reminds me of the episcopal board of ICEL discussing the English translation of the Rite of Penance. In the course of the discussion it became very clear that most of the bishops present had not personally heard a confession for many years….

  31. Adam (comment 22) is correct in saying that most Episcopalians still kneel to receive, which is why we have looked to the Roman Communion to show us the way, by standing to receive as the sons and daughters of God come of age, and allowing us to free our altars from rails and fences.
    To read these comments of the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship was a shock. How ironic that across the Reformation divide the posture of reaction is identical when it comes to receiving Holy Communion, whether justified by “adoration” or by a profession of unworthiness. Kneeling is an escape into individualism from the full demands of the call to become the Body of Christ.

    1. Kneeling is an escape into individualism from the full demands of the call to become the Body of Christ.

      Fr. Giles, do you mean that kneeling, when the prescribed posture is standing, thus kneeling in opposition to the norm, is an escape into individualism? I wasn’t sure if it was a general statement or a qualified one.

      1. I’m sure that not what Richard means.

        He is saying that kneeling per se is a collapse (no pun) into individualism.

      2. Kneeling is the body posture of individual, personal, private prayer.

        Standing is a liturgical (i.e. intrinsically communal) gesture.

      3. So kneeling can’t be communal or liturgical; that is, it is out of place in the liturgy, even if multiple people are kneeling?

        Is prostration individualistic or communalistic?

    2. Interesting, the first time I ever knelt for communion at a rail, I immediately liked kneeling more because it seemed so much more communal (side by side kneeling rather than one-by-one standing).

      I would also be interested to know why it is an escape into individualism. I have also never understood why some do not find it a “grown up” posture.

      1. So? They acquired another purpose over the course of history.

        Gathering around the altar at a rail seems far more communal to me than lining up one-by-one and receiving individually.

      2. Communion rails were invented to keep animals away from the altar.

        My understanding is that in the ancient basilicas the cancelli were actually intended to keep people away from the altar — i.e. they were a form of crowd control in a situation when everyone was not neatly confined to a pew.

        So, inasmuch as people are animals, you would be correct.

      3. “So? They acquired another purpose over the course of history.”

        Yes. Each accretion needs to be examined to see whether it has promoted or perverted the original impulse. The Second Vatican Council sought to do that. That’s why we got rid of bishops wearing gloves with rings on the outside, cappa magnas, maniples, subdeacons, tiaras, etc.

      4. Sometimes things simply assume a new purpose (rather than become a “perversion” of an original purpose). Altar rails are very practical for the reception of communion kneeling, so their retention for communities that wish to kneel would seem ideal. There’s also the more subjective issue of whether or not rails are a good way to visually delineate the sanctuary from the nave (there is also the issue of the possibly negative visual effect their removal typically has when dealing with older church buildings).

        IMO, decisions about “accretions” made after the Second Vatican Council need to be perpetually re-evaluated to discover how useful or effective their suppression was.

  32. John, it may not have mentioned them specifically, but it did mention them generally:

    128. Along with the revision of the liturgical books, as laid down in Art. 25, there is to be an early revision of the canons and ecclesiastical statutes which govern the provision of material things involved in sacred worship. These laws refer especially to the worthy and well planned construction of sacred buildings, the shape and construction of altars, the nobility, placing, and safety of the eucharistic tabernacle, the dignity and suitability of the baptistery, the proper ordering of sacred images, embellishments, and vestments. Laws which seem less suited to the reformed liturgy are to be brought into harmony with it, or else abolished; and any which are helpful are to be retained if already in use, or introduced where they are lacking.

    1. Thanks, Jeffrey. You saved me some bother and tedium!

      I don’t think J. N. is in a position to welcome anyone into the 21st century, since he’s dashing forward, head-first into the seventeenth.

      I advise him to forget about history – there’s no future in it.

    2. John, be that as it may, “gloves with rings on the outside, cappa magnas, maniples, subdeacons, tiaras” were eventually deemed to be out of harmony, or at least not necessary to be retained, with the reformed Roman Rite.

  33. “Forward into the 9th century” would also be an appropriate motto for your liturgical and theological worldview, by contrast with which the saeculum obscurum appears positively incandescent.

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