Yesterday I served at one of the early morning Masses as the USCCB meeting and, as was the case last year, most of those present were concelebrating bishops.
What struck me this year, which for some reason did not strike me last year, was how odd it felt at communion simply to hand the cup to the communicant without a word (as one does with concelebrants). I know that the concelebrants are mirroring the principal celebrant’s way of receiving communion, signaling, I suppose, their status as “co-presiders.” But I found myself wondering if it did not also signal an odd sort of clerical (or priestly) privilege: the get to “take” communion, while everyone else “receives” it.
This led me to reflect further on the importance of the brief dialogue engaged in by minister and communicant—“the body/blood of Christ.” “Amen.”—to the whole experience and symbolism of communion. Somehow this exchange heightens for me the connection between Christ as substantially present in the Eucharistic elements and Christ as “ecclesially” present in the Eucharistic assembly.
I think there are lots of possible ways in which we might rethink our practice of concelebration in light of the experience of the past 50 years (e.g. Is it really good to divide up the different parts of the Eucharistic Prayer among concelebrants? Should concelebration be limited to the number of priests who can decorously stand around the altar?). One possible change that I would suggest is that concelebrants receive communion, not take it for themselves, as a reminder to all who minister of Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “what do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7).