Speaking of the Liturgy…. July 6, 2011Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Dallas Diocese, disaster, episcopate, Eucharist, General Catholic, horror, Latin Mass, North Deanery, sadness, scandals, sickness.
…..so, I’m reading this book I got just before the holiday. I had meant to read several books before getting to this one, but I took it with me when we were out of town and, having finished some other reading, started on it. I was immediately captivated, although it is a fairly scholarly book. It is The Banished Heart, written by Professor Geoffrey Hull of Macquarie University, Sydney. I’ve only read the first 40 pages or so, but they are beyond interesting, they are positively illuminating. I’m totally hooked.
Professor Hull argues (among many, many other things) that the use of (un)extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and the reception of Communion in the hand, are two of the gravest abuses of the post-conciliar times. He establishes convincingly that, contrary to what is frequently claimed, while the early Church did allow Communion to be received in the hand, this was more a product of the environment the Church had to exist in than any kind of reverent practice. Due to the constant persecution of the Romans, the Liturgy often had to be celebrated quick and on the fly, for the Liturgy could be interrupted at any moment. So, Communion in the hand was permitted, but the practice was also very different. The communicant could not touch the Host with their fingers, they had to move the Host directly from the palm of the hand to the mouth, and they were closely supervised to insure that no abuses occurred. After this initial period passed, when many elements of the Liturgy and Theology of the Church were still in flux, being in their definitional stages, there was a conscious move away from Communion in the hand, and the practice was completely banned between the early 4th and middle of the 5th centuries, depending on the location. It must be remembered that even many elements of core theology were still being defined at this time, and that the persecutions played a major role in how the Liturgy was celebrated, so that it is rather bizaare to hearken back to this time and trying to establish Communion in the hand as a practice somehow more fitting to the Liturgy of today, when these exterior conditions no longer prevail.
Regarding extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, the practice is completely novel. There is no evidence it has ever occurred in the history of the Church, save for these last 30 years or so. There are countless reasons why only the priest was allowed to place the Blessed Sacrament on the tongue of the recipient – it emphasizes the Sacramental role of the priesthood and the recipient’s unworthy nature to literally receive the Body of Jesus Christ as food for their total nourishment, it shows the extreme reverence which we are to have for the Blessed Sacrament, with only those specifically consecrated to God as priests being allowed to handle it, and it heightens the Eucharistic mystery by reserving its consecration and handling by only those who are properly instituted to do so.
After Communion in the hand was banned, and I mean banned, to have the profane fingers of an unconsecrated lay person touch the Blessed Sacrament was seen as the highest sacrilege. The practice was completely forbidden in the Latin Church for at least 1500 years. We must keep in mind here the organic development of the Mass. Organically, this practice of reserving the handling of the Blessed Sacrament had evolved over the first few hundred years of the Church to become an accepted practice. It was no medieval accident – much thought went into the development of this practice.
But, in the 1960s, liturgical revolutionaries (a term used by some of those most involved in the reform of the Mass after Vatican II) sought to ‘democratize’ the Church by doing away with reverent receipt of the Blessed Sacrament. After all, modern man no longer went on bended knee before earthly king or prince, why should they do so at Mass? Neither Communion in the hand nor the use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion were specified by the Second Vatican Council. Both evolved out of abuses that were later ‘normalized’ by decree for various reasons (but mostly due to pressure from various episcopal conferences, who threatened to go into schism and go ahead with these practices even without Papal sanction). Even today, the use of ‘extraordinary’ ministers is supposed to be just that – for extraordinary occasions, but as we all see at Mass, it is anything but. I wonder if those who now try to piously assist at Mass by being an EMHC would continue to do so if they understood the history of the Church with regards to lay people handling the Blessed Sacrament?