A Pray Tell reader writes,
I am asking your help and advice on a matter. When I go to receive the Eucharist, I always try to look into the eyes of the minister and smile at the minister. However, I now understand that the group of folks with whom I sometimes worship (and I love them and their expression of liturgy) appear uncomfortable when I smile at the ministers at communion.
This article interests me and I wonder what you think of it. Bishop Luis Zarama says in the article,
I look at the procession coming to receive the Eucharist and sometimes it looks like a funeral. … Where is our joy?” Jesus comes to us to make us a part of him. Do we welcome him? Do we celebrate him and that beautiful encounter with the one who is love?
The article says that Bishop Zarama encourage each person at the Mass to smile when they came to receive Communion.
Should I continue to express my joy at this Holy Encounter? Or does my joy create a disturbance for others? I am conflicted. What does God ask me to do?
As I approach the Eucharistic Minister I smile at the person who is offering the Eucharist to me and usually they smile back. Mary would smile as she offered the child to me to hold and cherish. I certainly would smile in return at the great privilege of taking Him with me. If you are a person who normally shows your happiness and joy with a smile – share it with the MInister of Communion as you receive the Lord who is undoubtedly SMILING back at you!
I would encourage you to continue.I usually raise the Host to eye level, so that people have to look at my when they say Amen. I’m usually the one smiling; it’s great when they smile back. There are some people who don’t want to even look at me (or the minister) because I may be intruding in on their personal prayer time (don’t get me started on the Communal aspect that is lacking!). They just want to stay in their little world.
Being Solemn and reverant doesn’t mean you can’t smile, laugh, or express joy. Sometimes I don’t want to go to Mass because of all the dour people.
Therefore, be YOURSELF. If smiling adds to your worship, that’s great. Maybe you might be a catalyst that may help THEM pray better. In my opinion, small things like smiling can make a big difference.
@Pat Barkey – comment #2:
Really…. Because Communion time is really all about you, how you feel and your interaction with the recipient…. amazing.
Would you say “Be yourself” if that meant the person walked up and told you to stop insulting God with your insistence on personalizing what is the most personal sacred moment during the Mass?
@Todd Orbitz – comment #5:
Not sure about this. God makes us social beings, and personal expressions are part of the gift of God.
If only ministers, communicants, and pundits were more understanding of CCC 2478 and the urging to interpret in the best possible light.
@Todd Flowerday – comment #8:
I would urge you to accept my statement in the best possible way — particularly from a charitable concern for your soul.
Quite frankly, yes, we are all social beings and this is the time when we can socialize with our Lord, and many of us would prefer to be left along and keep the “minister” out of it. Because, quite frankly, it isn’t about the minister, it’s about Communion with our Lord, social, spiritual, and physical.
It would be nice if these Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and Priests/Deacons would observe that the IGMR 160 instructs faithful to bow their heads before the Blessed Sacrament. It’s not a time for engaging the communicant.
160. The Priest then takes the paten or ciborium and approaches the communicants, who usually come up in procession.
It is not permitted for the faithful to take the consecrated Bread or the sacred chalice by themselves and, still less, to hand them on from one to another among themselves. 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).
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. The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.
@Todd Orbitz – comment #16:
It is possible to differentiate between people and statements that they might make.
You made an interpretation and dropped the suggestion that someone was “insulting God.” You do not know this, so far as any of us can tell. As a believer, you are obliged to place the best possible interpretation on the experience. You may certainly state your preference for an alternate mood, expression, or way of interacting socially in a human and social environment. Beyond that, attributing motives is morally suspect. I am sure you are a fine and virtuous fellow. But perhaps you have stumbled here.
“… many of us would prefer to be left along and keep the ‘minister’ out of it.”
Of this I have little doubt. But a lay person is not permitted to take Communion for himself or herself under ordinary circumstances. Unless you are ordained, there is always a minister, unless something extraordinary is afoot.
Rita’s interpretation at #19 may well be true. It happens with fair frequency among believers.
@Todd Orbitz – comment #5:
Wow…”Where Charity and love prevail…”
If you think what I said was all about me, you are most terribly mistaken. HC is not about me; it is about the Lord. I was responding to a question, that is all.
The Sacred Moment of receiving the Lord can include smiling, etc. It can also include not smiling.
I was taught that the Faithful coming to Receive are, at the same time, coming to the Lord Himself. If the priest acts In Persona Christi, what does that say to the Faithful coming forward? How would you act when coming to the Lord? Would you ignore Him? If He smiles at you, or tries to get your attention, would you ignore Him? This is where I’m coming from.
There are different ways to approach this area of Worship. I respect your approach. I ask that you respect mine.
Btw, I have had people say things to me. Some of it was nice, some was not (usually a reaction to something in the homily). What do I do? I smile and try to act welcoming.
Again with the tired, simplistic assumption that someone not smiling is joyless.
I prefer when the communicants are lined up side by side (kneeling or standing) and the priest/deacon walks to each person with the sacrament, there’s just something more personal to that, it also evokes the practice of washing feet on Holy Thursday. In our cultures lines don’t tend to be associated with positive things, the person in front of you is an obstacle and you’re just waiting for your turn. (You can refer to it as a procession, but in practice there is very little that separates it from a line at the grocery store, at least in my experience)
@Stanislaus Kosala – comment #4:
I have to agree Stanislaus. I never feel closer to my fellow worshipers at Mass than when I am kneeling shoulder to shoulder with them at the communion rail and we’re being fed together in the front of the Lord’s Table. That to me, is so much more “communal.”
@John Kohanski – comment #26:
Ditto. Receiving at the rail has so many advantages – it is highly communal, allows time to think and prepare oneself immediately before receiving, and it does not rule out also having a communion procession.
I often smile before/after receiving communion, BTW.
@Jack Wayne – comment #32:
No difference between standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle and receiving.
Lines are part of processions and pilgrimages. It’s the attitude people bring to the experience, not just the physical reality of transporting people from one place to another.
Smiling at communion shows no disrespect. It shows joy.
If other people have an issue with that, it’s their problem. Are these critics Jansenists?
I thank, Fr. Ruff, for posting my question and concern with regard to the expression of joy at the Liturgy.
I do not judge the way others receive the Eucharist at Mass….and believe there is room for differences….Stand, kneel, hand, tongue, smile, not smile, etc.
When I am the minister at a Mass, I consider it a grace to be able to distribute the bread or wine to each and every person who comes before me. I look at each person and try to make eye contact while I smile at them. For me, this is such an intimate, graced moment. I am accepting and respectful when someone does not want to communicate at Communion.
When I receive communion, I do smile, and try to connect with the eyes of the minister. I am expressing a sense of gratefulness and joy to the minister, and to God for the gift of gifts. On the one hand, I am receiving a very personal gift, but it is also a gift not in isolation, it is shared with me through others, for others.
When I receive a gift for my birthday, I look at the gift giver, smile and express my joy. At the reception of the Eucharist my gratitude and joy is quietly expressed through facial expression and eye contact. I understand that everyone is not comfortable making eye contact…and I am fine with that.
However, I have also experienced disapproving looks and or even ministers looking away when I approached the cup. I certainly do not wish to do anything to make the group uncomfortable and take them away from their own recollection. So, I currently struggle with how best to reconcile this situation. Your prayers are appreciated!
Honestly, what other people are doing when I receive communion is probably the furthest thing from my mind; I personally don’t maintain or attempt eye contact because I’m focused on either the host or the chalice or getting back to wherever I need to be next. So long as folks aren’t talking or gesticulating wildly, I imagine whatever devotional mien they have is probably fine, within reason.
Sure you can smile! But you should probably be smiling at the Host or the Chalice–in adoration. That is where your eyes should be. That is where Jesus’ literal Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity is (CCC 1413). After Communion, you should smile at the person who just received, because now he is a tabernacle!
@Adam Chapman – comment #10:
Before I respond to Adam, …. wow, what a varied and multidimensional way this group expresses the reception of the Lord in the Eucharist. It is a powerful argument for allowing multiple prayers and liturgies. We are never uniform, no matter how much we try.
Adam, (typing gently and smiling at you and not my keyboard) I couldn’t disagree more. To simply respond to your last statement – and I know you were writing with a bit of humor – we do not become tabernacles after Communion. We were always the temple of the Lord, and we may be rejoicing after Communion because now we are even more aware. Or just because the wine tastes good. The chalice and the bread do not rejoice. I’m betting the person graced to feed me does, no matter what her countenance. I stand with her in awe of the Lord, and my face just starts to show it.
In response to the reader above, may I ask you not to try to smile? Just smile when your joy in the Lord asks you to. And if questioned, tell them why you do.
@Matt Connolly – comment #25:
“Just smile when your joy in the Lord asks you to. And if questioned, tell them why you do.”
That reminds me of a wily priest I knew in my youth. He always wore red socks. When asked why, he said that wherever he went people asked him about them, and it gave him an opportunity to talk to them about his joy in Christ.
He was not a particularly smiley guy, but he had the idea.
As the hymn says, “I come with joy to meet my Lord”.
Stanislaus Kosala (#4): (You can refer to it as a procession, but in practice there is very little that separates it from a line at the grocery store, at least in my experience)
What will make it into a procession is when people sing during it. This is why the Church expects us to sing Communion psalms with antiphons for everyone, and why composers for the past 40 years have been writing Communion songs with easily-memorized refrains.
To those who suggest that this is a personal devotional moment, I would suggest that rather than staring at the elements you should be looking at the congregation! Communion isn’t the most personal thing we can do, it’s actually the most communal thing. That’s why it’s called “Comm-union”. It’s something we all do together. Yes, it’s personal to me, but in a communal context. We are making concrete our belief that we, together, are in fact the Body of Christ, the Word made flesh, incarnate in this time and in this space. As long as people continue to try to practise private devotions on the occasion of the Church’s public, communal liturgy, we will continue to have these discussions which ultimately do not lead very far.
So keep smiling! Be happy to receive Jesus, and be happy to find him in others too.
@Paul Inwood – comment #11:
Your words remind me of Paul’s counsel to the church in Corinth (1 Cor 11), where he castigates them for approaching communion in a very individualistic manner, with divisions and factions among them. When he says in v. 29 “For all who eat and drink without discerning the body,” I think the “discerning the body” refers not only to the bread of the Eucharist become body of Christ, but also the People of God as the Body of Christ.
Communion is personal, in the sense of it being “for me,” but it is not private or solitary.
As a presider, I find a wide variation in how people approach the sacrament, both between the various people who come to receive as well as over the course of the liturgical year. During the Easter season, after the bread or wine is received, I hear more than a few joyous responses of “Alleluia!”; during Christmas I will hear “Glory to God in the highest”; during Lent I tend to hear a more somber “Amen” or “thanks be to God.”
How about acknowledging the joy that you share with others?
The closing lines of the Easter prefaces state: “Therefore, overcome with paschal joy…” I don’t know many congregations or presiders who would give the definite impression they are overcome with joy. So a smile at Communion is a good step towards thawing the Frozen People of God.
Pope Francis said this at daily Mass today:
“This is a Christian’s disease. We are afraid of joy. It is better to think: ‘Yes, yes, God exists, but He is there; Jesus is Risen and He is there’. Somewhat distant. We are afraid of being close to Jesus, because this gives us joy. This is why there are so many mournful Christians, right? Those whose lives seem to be a continuous funeral. They prefer sadness to joy. They prefer to move in the shadows, not in the light of joy, like those animals who only come out at night, not in the light of the day, who cannot see anything. Like bats. And with a little sense of humor we can say that there are Christians bats who prefer the shadows to the light of the presence of the Lord”.
@Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #14:
Have you seen Pope Francis celebrate Mass, Father? He rarely smiles, even when he’s distributing holy communion. In fact, much of the time it looks like he has an upsidedown smile on his face.
@Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #14:
@Peter Rehwaldt – comment #20:
And I’ll add that link to my comment above too.
Christian bats! I love it.
So to push the same question a bit further: with what kind of temperament should non-Catholics receive a blessing in lieu of communication?
With joy at receiving the blessing? Or with sorrow at the lack of unity that keeps one from communicating?
And should the non-communicant’s eyes be on the host that has been suddenly returned to the paten? Or on the one who is doing the blessing?
@Andy Edwards – comment #17:
The question is not what sort of temperament ought to be expressed, but what sort is acceptable to others.
So far as I can see, our questioner has not imposed on anyone else the necessity of echoing her own joy. The question is whether they may impose on her the requirement to suppress such joy.
I suspect they are jealous, actually. This has been known to happen.
I never heard of Bishop Zarama before, but from what I see in this article (linked in the post) I like him. Especially this:
“Bishop Zarama recalled an incident when celebrating Mass for those with special needs. While distributing Communion he saw and heard a communicant jump and cry and clap.
“My first thought was, ‘What is wrong with this person?’ But do you know who was wrong? Me,” he said.
Strive to be at a place in your heart free to receive Jesus with that overflow of joy, as this person did who jumped, cried and clapped with happiness, he said.”
@Rita Ferrone – comment #23:
Bravo to the Bishop. If someone had tried to silence that person, I bet the rocks and stones themselves would shout out…
I appreciate the sentiments of those who say they feel a closeness to Christ, or feel a sense of unity with other worshippers, in the manner they most prefer to receive Communion.
But it is important to know, not just feel, that closeness and unity even before you set foot into the church.
Sometimes, for one reason or another, a liturgy can be far less than inspiring or uplifting. But nonetheless, it is still a gathering of God’s people, with Christ as the Head, remembering Him, praising Him, worshipping Him. I go to church/Mass knowing I am coming together with other members of the Body. It’s great if the “outward signs reenforce that belief and facilitate the emotion of joy and gratitude but even if they occassionally fail to do so, I still know I have been in loving communion with God and His people, whether we sit, stand, kneel, sing, snore, whatever.
It’s the attitude/beliefs we bring with us to Mass that make all the difference.
I don’t know how to give communion without smiling. My brothers and sisters come before me after a reverential bow. I smile because Christ is not only in the Host I am holding, he’s in me and in the person to whom I just said “the body of Christ” and who responded in Hebrew “I believe.” It’s pretty clear to me that the folks doing the objecting here are those who think that when Christ is offering the Eucharist he should do so without a personality. I can only guess they think he didn’t have a human personality with which he could laugh and smile, weep and mourn, and express frustration and rage. That’s not my read of the gospel. I don’t know how they constructed a very serious and pious looking Christ who holds his hands stiffly together and who wishes he could turn away from the people and gaze at his Father. Lord, help us.
@Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #31:
The big difference though is that latria is due to the presence of Christ in the host while this is not the case with the presence of Christ in the communicant or the priest. This is often forgotten today.
I have nothing against smiling both within and outside the liturgy, but i’m curious, Father, what do you think of Pope Francis’ demeanor when he celebrates Mass and distributes holy communion?
@Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #31:
Fr. Feehily —
I suspect that a lot of people get their working image of Jesus from the dour portraits of Him through the ages which show Him as, well, not a happy person. Think of the portraits of Jesus in icons and in crucifixion paintings and in all the ordinary sort of images we see of Him these days. Yes, we need some new images.
Generally when I pray and truly concentrate on prayer I look miserable. If you are smiling you are probably trying to impress those around you. If you’re focused on prayer you lose sense of your outward appearance. Even Pope Frankie looks miserable when celebrating Mass.
It occurs to me that the music playing during communion probably affects people’s demeanor, too. I’m used to hymns like “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” and “Deck Thyself My Soul With Gladness,” which foster a joy closer to weeping than smiling. I don’t mean that snarkily, either.
“Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness.
Leave the gloomy haunts of sadness.
Come into the daylight’s splendour.
There with joy thy praises render
Unto him whose grace unbounded
hath this wondrous banquet founded;
high o’er all the heavens he reigneth,
yet to dwell with thee he deigneth.”
I getting teary-eyed just typing the lyrics.
Stanislaus, do you have any idea of how few people know anything about latria? I haven’t heard that word since a priest much older than I used it in remembering his seminary training in rubrics. I have experienced devotion, piety, and expressions of reverence as part of worship since I was a child. In the Mass of old all of those things were detached from the rest of life. They were ways of behaving in church. The reformed Mass makes it clear that if how we worship while in church is not connected with how we live as church it is not worship in spirit and truth. Perfunctory genuflections, a few women wearing veils, the occasional rosary prayer, and someone burying their face in their hands after communion we may always have with us, but the truly present Lord calls us to so much more. He can look at us during Mass with the earnestness of a teacher, or with frustration, or with a loving smile. But not once does he pray with hands stiffly together because he knows that our Father in heaven is not just up our out there, but with him in our midst. Perhaps you are in love with the unreformed Mass because it speaks to a place deep in your heart. I’ve been in love and can live with your preference. How the pope celebrates Mass means little to me. Maybe that’s how Jesuits in Argentina were trained. It’s not how I was trained.
@Jack Feehily – comment #37:
I really don’t care if you use the word “latria” or not, the point is simply that we reverence and treat the holy gifts in a way that is reserved for God alone, whereas this is not the case for the other instances of the presence of Christ in the liturgy.
You should read the sections in Evangelii Gaudium about popular piety.
@Stanislaus Kosala – comment #42:
May I suggest that a little more respect for a wise and experienced pastor would be in order?
And that reading Paul VI’s Mysterium Fidei 34-39 might be beneficial.
@Paul Inwood – comment #43:
How am I being disrespectful to Father Feehily?
And may I suggest that you read Paul VI Mysterium Fidei 55-62?
@Stanislaus Kosala – comment #44:
It’s about tone.
And about a breadth of reading with an open mind.
@Paul Inwood – comment #46:
I love such vague comments. They don’t commit you to addressing anything that I have said, such as my own Mysterium Fidei quotes, but still allow you to take.a dominant and corrective posture. Kudos.
@Stanislaus Kosala – comment #50:
I love such vague comments.
Well, that’s all right, then. 😉
@Stanislaus Kosala – comment #44:
“How am I being disrespectful to Father Feehily?”
Not to speak for Paul Inwood, but I would suggest that when you said “You should read…” it came across as if you were addressing a pupil, rather than addressing a peer or an older, respected person.
We’re all on a search for truth, and suggesting something to read doesn’t have to be a put down. “I statements” are better in general. Come to think of it, it might be even better to say what you got out of such reading first and then give the source.
Speaking for myself, I didn’t really feel drawn to looking up these texts from what was said about them.
@Rita Ferrone – comment #60:
Oh that? I was just responding to what I took to be a patronizing and dismissive tone in his post.
I take exception to the way that he talked about people who perform certain pious gestures.
Todd, there is also no difference in standing at a rail either, except it more easily allows people to kneel as well. However, I think standing in a circle would only work if it was around the altar (and only really if the church were designed in the round – otherwise a semicircle or just along the front works), since we are supposed to gather at the altar for communion – not away from it. The original altar rail at my church is built in a semicircle oriented towards the high altar, and is of the same material and design so as to emphasize that it is an extension of the altar.
The only Mass I ever saw people stand side by side to receive was an EF Mass where the rail was not present. The parish celebrates it a couple times a year for special occations.
@Jack Wayne – comment #39:
I’d say the line is ingrained among Catholics of the past few generations at least. They wait in line for Penance, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. They process in lines for Marriage, Corpus Christi, and many outside devotions. It’s been twelve years since I was in a parish with a rail. The notion of it, while I’m aware of its tradition, strikes me as weird and of little use these days. But that’s another post, no doubt.
I don’t consider the standing in line/procession aspect of communion and the actual reception of it to be the same thing. We process and wait in line to use the rail, but then we gather as a group to recieve. The usual way we receive in most parishes emphasizes that communion is a one-by-one act. The comparison to penance is rather apt, since we wait in line to confess privately. Add the common practice of placing the chalace off to the sides of the church, as well as setting up communion stations far outside the sanctuary at large masses and the notion that we are actually gathering at the altar for something is pretty much lost.
@Jack Wayne – comment #41:
Emphasizes? Perhaps. There is a common posture and a common song. That reinforces the communality quite a bit where I come from. I generally oppose the thought of communion in the balconies when it comes up for occasional discussion. And while yes, the chalice is offered laterally from the Body where I am now, that our church is designed antiphonally circumvents that somewhat.
I’m disinclined to change a working and workable pattern for receiving the Eucharist. Not without very careful discernment. And anything novel would have to be almost a natural fit.
The rail has too many negative connotations to be reestablished easily in many places. Many churches today have never had one.
I have concluded like some others who have already posted that external and internal dispositions are often not congruent. However, few consider how the human smile is rather throwaway in many everyday instances. I am glad that I do not work in customer service, and not only because of HR’s inevitable displeasure at my significant overbite and coffee-stained teeth. I am glad because the command to smile in many circumstances is forced and often not genuine. Is it this meaningless and jejune smile which is sought by many liturgists at communion time, or a more sincere gesture? What would this more sincere gesture be?
I’ve long thought, perhaps erroneously, that the progressive liturgical Gestalt requires certain explicit signs of amity in order to create an approximate ideal of liturgy. Traditionalists quite often recoil even at the thought of the postmodern reinvention of the Pax as a handshake between the congregants. The “new” Pax illustrates a point of divergence between the progressive and traditionalist understanding of human solidarity in liturgy. While the progressive understanding of liturgy focuses on interpersonal generation of an ever-evolving worship which pleases God, for traditionalists God has entrusted liturgy to the faithful as curators of what is perfected during time and not in human effort. A traditionalist answer to the Non Solum question might be a shrug and an admission that Mass cannot make people truly peaceable, but only the celebration of the sacrament.
@Jordan Zarembo – comment #47:
There are many throwaway qualities in modern culture, those adopted by the Left, Right, in-between, and both. None are really the topic of the original post, which asks if an individual’s particular exterior is a problem or not. It’s not.
Much stronger in the “conservative liturgical gestalt” is the philosophy of an imposed uniformity. “If I prefer to decline the cup, to frown, not to tap my foot, then all others must align with me.” What masquerades as “solemnity” is really a kind of narcissism. And worse, there’s a kind of adolescence promoted under JP2 to suggest there’s something worthwhile in tattling to Rome whenever someone steps out of line.
The progressive answer, theologically speaking, is “Do what you want, but nyah, nyah, you can’t make us imitate you.” I doubt Rome is listening to the little monsters either.
I don’t remember a single post in which someone suggested a forced smile on the face of the minister or the communicant. It simply comes naturally to me and lines up with my inner joy. It’s certainly an appropriate disposition. I wouldn’t contend it’s required.
@Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #48:
Fr. Jack, I apologize that you read my post in this way. I don’t think that you are insincere. I merely point out that smiling can be forced and insincere depending on circumstances. Instances of insincere smiling devalue instances of sincere smiling.
Jordan points in the right direction, ie do not be insincere. If sincerity means a smile, smile. Don’t let people, even ministers, force you into insincere solemnity. (as if solemnity and joy were opposites?)
Joy is the fruit of God’s presence. It does not have to appear as a smile, but if it does prompt one, then smile. Don’t hide it; share it so others can see and give glory to God. A certain joy accompanies gratitude and thanksgiving and should never be inappropriate at the Eucharist.
Amen. A thousand times AMEN!
Actually, I think Todd has it completely backwards. One of the most freeing things about attending the old Mass is the lack of imposed uniformity among the congregants. I’m curious to know if he speaks from experience. Some people always have their opinions of what everyone should do (especially older people who where taught to participate “just so” by their teachers and nuns), but I’ve never had anyone complain about everyone not singing, or smiling, or holding hands, or how they still pray the rosary or can be seen putting thier hands over their face after communion. There seems to be a constant disappointment among OF liturgists about how the congregation isn’t doing enough, or isn’t doing it right. That some even want to trump up charges of division to get rid of the EF says a lot for how much uniformity and compliance are valued.
@Jack Wayne – comment #55:
Jack, I would say that there are some people who, as my wife comments, do Vatican II in a Vatican I way. I would certainly say that among my older colleagues, those trained in the 50’s and early 60’s perhaps, who retain something of the pre-conciliar fussiness about “doing things right.” Not everybody, to be sure. But not quite as many as reform2 campers.
Speaking for myself, as a member of the post-Vatican II generation, I espouse an even broader freedom than either you or those straddling the Vatican II line.
The so-called freedom given to TLM advocates is an artificial construct for the slimmest of minorities. More people would advocate for inculturation, for more accurate and poetic translations, for an excision of the grossest examples of sexist language, for the most modest opening up of liturgical riches, past and present–but this freedom is denied. Do people have to threaten to go into schism over this stuff? Clearly, more post-conciliar Catholics have a more mature approach. I daresay my colleagues and I have played quite well with an atrocious MR3, and sucked it up for the good of unity. A good segment of the reform2 CMAA crowd would more likely prefer to pout, stamp their feet, and complain about fish kites if they had to do something as distasteful.
Trust me: I speak from experience. I’ve gone head to head with misguided members of previous generations. Tolerance is very low among those formed in the post-Reformation camp. It’s time to let go. Down with jansenism.
Todd (#52): “If I prefer to decline the cup, to frown, not to tap my foot, then all others must align with me.” What masquerades as “solemnity” is really a kind of narcissism. And worse, there’s a kind of adolescence promoted under JP2 to suggest there’s something worthwhile in tattling to Rome whenever someone steps out of line.”
Yes, all of this is true. You are right that often the curators of traditionalism insist on a single way to engage with the post-Reformation Catholicism. This desire to trap the Tridentine period (more specifically, its mid-twentieth-century incarnation) in amber requires a foil, a stereotyped enemy who is not in actually as inimical as perceived. Yet, the post-conciliar project has at times tried to hem in traditionalism with episcopal intransigence and pastoral hostility. True liberalism (liberalism v1.0, not neoliberalism) however must admit the peril of a parallel movement.
Todd (#56): Down with jansenism.
I wouldn’t be so quick to write that. Jansenism, just like neo-Tridentinism and postmodern liturgical development in our day, was a liturgical, theological, and social movement. These three subsets could not be separated. This is also true of your liturgical aspirations — each fits together in a tetris-like whole which becomes a solid edifice. Similarly, 17th century French Jansenism was far from just a movement of the psychologically regressed. Jansenism gave voice to the bourgeoisie, new intellectual currents, as well as liturgical developments. Some Jansenistic liturgical developments have been realized in post-Vatican II reforms. Even so, it is important to remember that all liturgical movements are ideological processes, even for those who are whole-hearted partisans.
@Jordan Zarembo – comment #57:
The genius of church community demands that we engage honestly with charity, if not love, those who vary in their style from us. Hemming in the different is not a quality of either post-Reformation Catholicism or modern progressive liturgy. It is a human fault. Few communities escape it in any total way.
The reality on the ground is that I’m duty-bound to engage with love and honesty the Jacks and Jordans in my own community. And mutually, we strive to avoid such perils.
In this forum, I’m going to continue to criticize lazy assumptions on the part of my sisters and brothers. I would expect they do the same with me.
I made my First Communion in 1937, having learned my catechism from an old-fashioned Baltimore Catechism. Yes, we were taught Communion is a solemn occasion, but if someone had told us new Communicants that we were supposed not-to-smile we would have thought that the person was nuts, out-of-his/her mind, totally bonkers, you name it. The old days were bad in some ways, but certainly not *that* bad.
It seems to me that the people who want to proscribe expressions of joy, even such totally silent ones as smiling, are among those whom Pope Francis just called “bat-like Christians”. They’re the joyless ones who are afraid of light, who refer to live huddled together in caves and come out only when as the sun is going down. They’re afraid of life itself. So sad.
It’s one more reminder that we need some new religious images of saints showing those poor bat-like people that it’s a good thing for saints to show their positive feelings, it’s OK to smile.
@Ann Olivier – comment #59:
God bless you! I am pleased to know that as a first communicant you were not subjected to scolding for being joyful.
I do remember the nuns in my grammar school (in the 1960s) angrily shouting at students: “Wipe that smile off your face!” We were treated like little soldiers in boot camp. I now suspect they were subject to emotional abuse themselves in the convent, and perhaps in their own family of origin.
Even at the time, though, I knew it was peculiar and wrong.
I’m so sorry that those nuns deformed the occasion for you all! I do believe that most nuns cared deeply about their students, but there were a few who weren’t the best balanced. And, I suspect that some orders which had unfortunate mother superiors were inclined to doom and gloom. (Oh, the power of mother superiors in those days! Now that was real.)
By the way, I’m watching the canonizations on TV and am happy to note that the huge pictures of St. John XXIII and St. JP II hanging on the front of St. Peter’s both show them smiling very definite smiles 🙂 🙂 God bless the photographers — they tell it like it is.
Thank you all for your many and helpful comments. I echo Matt Connelly, who noted the varied and multidimensional way this group expresses the reception of the Lord in the Eucharist. I thank each and everyone of you for your responses! I too (Rita Ferrone) believe that reception of the Eucharist with a smile is a sign of joy and no disrespect. Indeed, Fr. Jack Feehily, and Pat Barkley, I know I would find it very difficult to distribute communion without smiling. But….BTW….In the past year, I also once approached the Eucharist in quiet tears as I was experiencing great loss at that time. I approached the ministers with them, and, again gazing at the eyes of the minister, brought my brokenness to the community and God. I think this is the congruency that Jordon Zarembo mentions. And I have had others approach me with tears. When this happens I cannot turn my head and eyes away but rather try to responded as compassionately as I can. Todd Flowerday, I looked up “CCC2478” and it is a concept that I have copied and put on my mirror. It is a beautiful and challenging statement, one that might be included in our daily review of conscience. Paul Inwood, I am so grateful to you and the many Pastoral Musicians and Composers for your wonderful antiphons (i.e. Center of My Life) that we sing as “We come to Meet You with Joy”… in COMM-UNION. Fr. Ruff, thank you for publishing my letter and for Pope Francis’ quote of the Day. Pope Francis seems to continually call us to Mercy and JOY! Jim McCay YES! A certain joy accompanies gratitude and thanksgiving and should never be inappropriate at the Eucharist. To each of you, be it at the alter- kneeling, in a circle, or in procession…..we are the body of Christ! Let us pray for one another!
1. If you keep your head bowed while moving to take the Host or the chalice, you risk dropping it. It seems to me that if you are a thoughtful communicant, you will get the required (and salutary) bowing completed before actually extending your hand or tongue.
2. Since the minister is addressing you and expecting a response, why would you not make eye contact with the person? Didn’t you ever hear a parent or teacher say “Look at me when I’m talking to you!”?
3. An exception to #2: My parish has a priest who does not make eye contact with us at Communion. His practice unnerved me until I remembered that in his home region (the southwest of India) people are more reserved about these things.
4. Some EMHCs—I haven’t run across very many of them—seem just too darned smiley as they perform their ministry. Keep it genuine, as so many commenters have already urged. As Bonhoeffer might have remarked, cheap joy is a deadly enemy of our church.
5. Personal prayer BEFORE taking Communion is a grand thing, and need not harm the social aspects of the process as a whole, especially if it’s completed by the time the Communion song begins. Why not say those personal prayers at the same time they’re prescribed for the priest?
5a. A personal plug: Does anyone else consider the priest’s pre-Communion “Domine Jesu Christe, Fili Dei vivi” (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God”) a superprayer? It combines great doctrinal depth, multiple echoes of Scripture, an impressive conciseness in the Latin, and the frank, heartfelt approach of the believer to Jesus. To me, it reads as if it could have been composed nine years ago instead of nine hundred (or whatever).
@Paul R. Schwankl – comment #65:
Re: 5a — Agreed. I always try to pray it before communion.
The priest’s prayer at the purification of the vessels also makes a great prayer for after communion:
What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart,
that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity.
@Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #66:
Needs a musical setting for the whole assembly to pray. Very suitable. I also like the simple apostolic acclamation from this past Sunday: My Lord and my God!
@Todd Flowerday – comment #67:
Actually, I have had the same thought and have even considered passing along the text to our music director with the suggestion that it would be a great text to set for the assembly.
Something else to consider might be the hymn sung at the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom by Churches that use the Byzantine rite. It’s sung after the celebrant blesses the people with the remainder of the Eucharist and then takes the chalice back to the altar. He then says some private prayers and then turns back to the people, elevating the chalice and says “Blessed is our God, always now and ever and forever.” He then returns the chalice to the deacon who takes it to the altar of preparation, consumes the remainder of the contents, and cleanses the chalice and paten. While this is happening, the people respond with “amen” and then sing: “May our mouths be filled with your praise, O Lord, so that we may sing of Your glory, for You have deemed us worthy to partake of Your holy, divine, immortal and life-creating Mysteries. Keep us in Your holiness, so that all the day long we may live according to Your truth. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!”
It’s quite a joyful hymn and moment in the Liturgy, and there are numerous settings already, both for choir and for congregation. Though it could not be used in Lent in the Latin Church.
In reply to Fritz and Todd at 66–68: “Quod ore sumpsimus” (“What has passed our lips”) is a beaut too. Notice that in it, as in “Domine Jesu Christe,” there’s not a “praesta,” “quaesumus,” or “da propitius” in sight.
It’s hard for me to believe that with the explosion of Communion songs in the last fifty years somebody hasn’t provided a tune for the sentiment in “Quod ore,” if not those exact words.
Paul, maybe no one ever both to set it to music because the old translation was so boring: “Lord, may I receive these gifts in purity of heart. May they bring me healing and strength, now and forever.” Though I hate to say anything good about the new translation (not really), its translation of “Quod ore sumpsimus” is vastly superior to the old one.
Jungmann notes that this prayer is very old, appearing in the Leonine Sacramentary (7th cent. or possibly earlier).
Another Communion prayer which has been translated, versified and set to muaic as a hymn is this prayer (from the Liturgy of Malabar) of Ephrem the Syrian (d.373), translated by J.M. Neale, versified by Charles Humhreys and revised by Percy Dearmer, usually sung to Ach Gott und herr. I don’t know how popular it is in America. (It seems freely available on line.) A more modern rendering is ” Hands that have been handling” by Adam Fox (1883-1977).
1. Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands
That holy things have taken;
Let ears that now have heard thy songs
To clamour never waken.
2. Lord, may the tongues which Holy sang
Keep free from all deceiving;
The eyes which saw Thy love be bright
Thy blessèd hope perceiving.
3. The feet that tread Thy holy courts
From light do Thou not banish;
The bodies by Thy body fed
With Thy new life replenish.