The Communion Rite, Part III
When we share a meal with family and friends, we are likely to hear at some point a welcome invitation to dine – Come to the table … a comer [co-mair] … mangia! [man-jeeh] The same happens at Mass. Over the past several weeks we have seen how the Eucharistic meal is prepared, and how we prepare to receive it. Now, the invitation comes as the priest elevates the chalice and host and proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). He then proclaims words from the book of Revelation, “Blessed are those who have been called to the Supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). We respond in words that express both humility and confidence: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8). We are invited to look at the Eucharistic Bread and to express reverence, confidence and faith.
The celebrating priest receives the consecrated bread and wine first before distributing the Lord’s body and blood to each communicant. When distributing communion, the priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of holy communion shows the host to each person and says, “The Body of Christ,” to which the communicant responds, “Amen.” A similar formula – “The Blood of Christ” – precedes reception from the chalice. It is important to remember that we always receive communion; it is never permitted for a communicant to simply take the Body and Blood of Christ from the altar. It is received from a priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
Up to the eleventh century, the norm was to receive communion under both kinds: both the Precious Body and the Precious Blood. Over the centuries, a practice developed of not receiving from the chalice, except in special circumstances. The Second Vatican Council initiated a gradual extension of the ancient practice of receiving the Eucharist under both kinds. Thus, receiving both the consecrated bread and the chalice is now permitted at all Masses.
Another ancient practice - receiving the Eucharistic bread in the hand – has been revived in recent years. Communicants now have the option of receiving either in the hand or on the tongue. Receiving from the chalice brings out the fuller meaning of the Eucharist.
In the United States, the norm is for communicants to receive Communion while standing, although kneeling, while not encouraged, is permitted by those who choose it. As a sign of reverence, we make a slight bow before receiving the Eucharistic Bread and the chalice. No genuflection should be made.
Since the earliest centuries, it has been the custom to sing a psalm during the Communion procession. The communion song, expressing unity, encounter with the Lord, and joy, should begin when the priest receives the Sacrament and should continue as long as is convenient. When there is no song, the antiphon found in the Missal is recited by the faithful, a lector or by the priest himself. To foster participation of the faithful, there should only be one hymn during the Communion Rite, although if the Communion procession is lengthy, an additional piece of music may be permissible. There may be a choral piece during the period of reflection.
After every meal, someone must do the dishes. After Communion, there must be a reverent cleaning of the vessels used during the Mass. Any consecrated hosts that remain may either be consumed or placed in the tabernacle. Any consecrated wine that remains must be consumed by the priest, the deacon or the extraordinary ministers. It may never be disposed of in any other way. In the Diocese of Salt Lake City, the priest or deacon purifies the vessels with water, at the credence table. Care must be taken that no fragments of consecrated hosts are left on the altar.
The Eucharistic meal concludes with the Prayer after Communion. It should be preceded by a period of silence and is introduced with the words, “Let us pray.” This prayer is not a prayer of thanksgiving but, rather, asks for the spiritual effects or fruits of the Eucharist. It always concludes the Communion Rite, and only after this prayer may other activities follow, such as brief announcements.
Of all the reflections, this is the one which just doesn't sit well with me at all. Not that it isn't an adequate description of what is happening. My objection is the same as some of the faithful who show a more pious attitude and have a better understanding of what the Mass is than I. It is the seemingly deliberate obstructing of the Mass as sacrifice in favor of a meal. The obscuring of Calvary in favor of the Upper Room. The emphasis of the horizontal expression of this liturgy over the the vertical. The focus on the temporal instead of the spiritual. It is the complaint of Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani echoing since 1969.
It also highlights two other contentious issues. The first is reception under both kinds and how it has made some kind of a comeback. (It also ties into the abuse of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, but that is another issue.) The second is the physical postures of receiving the Body of Christ. Are the both anachronisms? I leave a thought about that for later, for there are some other tie-ins.
Yes, this reflection is told as an analogy. But it is as accurately told as possible?