As promised, I want to set forth the value of standing during the communion rite, from the time of the Our Father until the time of silent prayer after communion.
My argument is based on the values inherent in every version of the General Instruction from 1969 to the present, as well as the changes made in the 2002 edition (marked in bold in the following extracts from the 2011 translation of the 2002 GIRM, §§42, 43, 86, 95, and 96). My argument is: When one studies carefully the changes in the 2002 GIRM, one sees that there is an even stronger case for (relative) uniformity of the posture of standing throughout the communion rite, pace the current US practice.
42. The gestures and bodily posture of both the Priest, the Deacon, and the ministers, and also of the people, must be conducive to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, to making clear the true and full meaning of its different parts, and to fostering the participation of all. Attention must therefore be paid to what is determined by this General Instruction and by the traditional practice of the Roman Rite and to what serves the common spiritual good of the People of God, rather than private inclination or arbitrary choice.
A common bodily posture, to be observed by all those taking part, is a sign of the unity of the members of the Christian community gathered together for the Sacred Liturgy, for it expresses the intentions and spiritual attitude of the participants and also fosters them.
Notice that this article is almost entirely new (I speculate that this emphasis is taken from Articles 95 and 96, printed below). Six values are adduced for a common posture:
- one, making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity
two, making clear the true and full meaning of its different parts
three, fostering the participation of all
four, signifying the unity of the members of the Christian community gathered together for the Sacred Liturgy,
five, expressing the intentions and spiritual attitude of the participants
six, fostering the intentions and spiritual attitude of the participants.
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43. The faithful should stand from the beginning of the Entrance Chant, or while the Priest approaches the altar, until the end of the Collect; for the Alleluia Chant before the Gospel; while the Gospel itself is proclaimed; during the Profession of Faith and the Universal Prayer; and from the invitation, Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren), before the Prayer over the Offerings until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated here below.
The faithful should sit, on the other hand, during the readings before the Gospel and the Responsorial Psalm and for the Homily and during the Preparation of the Gifts at the Offertory; and, if appropriate, they may sit or kneel during the period of sacred silence after Communion.
In the dioceses of the United States of America, they should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by ill health, or for reasons of lack of space, of the large number of people present, or for another reasonable cause. However, those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the Priest genuflects after the Consecration. The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise.
However, the original Latin of the previous paragraph indicates very modest expectations of kneeling:
Genuflectant vero, nisi valetudinis causa, vel ob angustiam loci vel frequentiorem numerum adstantium aliasve rationabiles causas impediantur, ad consecrationem. Hi vero qui non genuflectunt ad consecrationem, inclinationem profundam peragant dum sacerdos genuflectit post consecrationem.
“They should kneel, to be sure—except when prevented on occasion by ill health, or for reasons of lack of space, of the large number of people present, or for another reasonable cause—at the consecration. However, those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the Priest genuflects after the Consecration.”
Those of us who appreciate the Mass of Pope Saint Pius V can say what an immense shift this paragraph about kneeling makes in the Mass of Pope Paul VI. The old emphasis on kneeling by the people was attached most especially to the exposed Blessed Sacrament, always present in the tabernacle on the altar, renewed in the Sacrifice of the Mass, consumed under both signs by the priest, taken from the tabernacle for distribution to all the other ministers and the people and returned thereto, with all the vessels purified at the altar. The new emphasis on standing underscores the resurrection posture of all during the Celebration, and the freedom to sit or kneel after communion underscores the need to commune with our eucharistic Lord and with one another, on earth, on the way, and in heaven.
I cannot help but think that overemphasis on kneeling until the reserved sacrament is replaced in the tabernacle before sitting or kneeling detracts from the reality that the Eucharist exists for being consumed (“ut sumatur” says Chapter V of the Thirteenth Session of the Council of Trent), that our main focus after communion is communing.
Have we really noticed that going to the tabernacle for hosts to be distributed at Mass is not mentioned in the General Instruction?
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy says that “[T]he more perfect form of participation in the Mass whereby the faithful, after the priest’s communion, receive the Lord’s Body from the same sacrifice, is warmly recommended” (55, emphasis added).
One of the first implemented documents of the reform, Eucharisticum mysterium [EM], May 1967, interprets the conciliar article thus:
31. The faithful share more fully in the celebration of the eucharist through sacramental communion. It is strongly recommended [valde commendatur] that they should receive it as a rule [de more] in the Mass itself and at that point in the celebration which is prescribed by the rite, that is, right after the communion of the priest celebrant.
In order that the communion may stand out more clearly even through signs as a participation in the sacrifice actually being celebrated, steps should be taken [curandum est] that enable the faithful to receive hosts consecrated at the Mass.
Note that the valde commendatur (“warmly recommended”) of CSL, 55 is strengthened by the de more (“as a rule”) and the curandum est (“steps should be taken”) of EM, 31. Later this becomes the maxime commendatur (“strongly recommended”) of canon 917.
UPDATE See also GIRM 85: It is most desirable that the faithful, just as the Priest himself is bound to do, receive the Lord’s Body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass and that, in the cases where this is foreseen, they partake of the chalice, so that even by means of the signs Communion may stand out more clearly as a participation in the sacrifice actually being celebrated.
Returning to Article 43:
For the sake of uniformity in gestures and bodily postures during one and the same celebration, the faithful should follow the instructions which the Deacon, a lay minister, or the Priest gives, according to what is laid down in the Missal.
Notice the reiteration of the desire for uniformity in gestures and bodily postures.
* * *
86. While the Priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion Chant is begun, its purpose being to express the spiritual union of the communicants by means of the unity of their voices, to show gladness of heart, and to bring out more clearly the “communitarian” character of the procession to receive the Eucharist. The singing is prolonged for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful. However, if there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion Chant should be ended in a timely manner.
Care should be taken that singers, too, can receive Communion with ease.
It may seem to some that the addition of the first clause is a mere clarification, but I argue that it is a new emphasis on “the ‘communitarian’ character of the procession to receive the Eucharist.”
It may seem to some that the addition of the sentence, “The singing is prolonged for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.” is a mere clarification, but I argue that it is a new emphasis on “the ‘communitarian’ character of the procession to receive the Eucharist.”
And if we are SINGING all during this time, we should be STANDING all during this time. (Sorry to shout, but I feel passionate about this.)
* * *
95. In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a holy people, a people of God’s own possession and a royal Priesthood, so that they may give thanks to God and offer the unblemished sacrificial Victim not only by means of the hands of the Priest but also together with him and so that they may learn to offer their very selves. They should, moreover, take care to show this by their deep religious sense and their charity toward brothers and sisters who participate with them in the same celebration.
They are consequently to avoid any appearance of singularity or division, keeping in mind that they have only one Father in heaven and that hence are all brothers or sisters one to the other.
96. Moreover, they are to form one body, whether in hearing the Word of God, or in taking part in the prayers and in the singing, or above all by the common offering of the Sacrifice and by participating together at the Lord’s table. This unity is beautifully apparent from the gestures and bodily postures observed together by the faithful.
These articles have remained unchanged from the very first edition of the General Instruction (1969). As such, they may have lost their significance to us who may have grown too familiar with them. But nothing like these articles has ever existed in a ritual book for the celebration of Mass! These articles constitute a summary of the greatest change in the Missal of Pope Paul VI: the emphasis on the role of the people at the liturgy.
The entire Extraordinary Form missal mentions the assembly/congregation / faithful / people some thirty times (only thrice in the Order of Mass) but only to orient the gestures and postures of the celebrant, to mention that a homily may be preached to them, that a special Lenten prayer be prayed over them, or that they should receive ashes, palms, candles, and be allowed to venerate the cross on Good Friday.
By contrast, the General Introduction to the Ordinary Form—all by itself—mentions the assembly/congregation/faithful/people over 500 times! The Order of Mass mentions them almost eighty times! And these are differences not just in degree but in kind.
Perhaps our American practice can be reformed in the next edition of the missal.
UPDATE: May I ask that all readers of this blog treat each other in the way C. S. Lewis instructs us in his sermon, “The Weight of Glory”:
It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner — no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat — the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.