Monday, March 16, 2015
SIGNS AND SYMBOLS AND MISSING THE POINT
1. Latin and Greek--it is required in the EF Mass and not left to the priest to decide if he will use it or not.
2. Ad Orientem (or at least an altar with strict rubrics about its decoration even when facing the nave).
3. Kneeling for Holy Communion.
4. Strict rubrics and clear instructions for the choreography of the Mass which in this broad sense could be viewed as a "liturgical dance." In fact, the liturgy itself is a sacred dance, but scripted to the tee as not to make it appear secular, banal or sexual in any sense.
Prior to the restoration of St. Joseph's altar railing, we had to place a kneeler out for people to come up individually to kneel for Holy Communion.
After the restoration of our altar railing and for the first time in my priesthood, I was able to distribute Holy Communion to communicants kneeling at the full length of the altar railing, communicants awaiting the priest to process to them after they had processed to the altar railing, a true liturgical procession with the Lord's procession the most important. (Of course up until about 1974 in my home parish, until I was about 21 years old, we knelt for Holy Communion even in the revised Mass.)
I have to say that the traditional method of distributing Holy Communion to kneeling communicants is much quicker in terms of the overall time it takes to distribute Holy Communion to a congregation, but much slower and deliberate for the communicant--thus the both of best worlds. The communicant makes his/her way to the altar railing, is able to wait for the priest to process to them, and then can wait briefly after receiving before returning to their pew.
On Sunday we have four Ordinary Form Masses. Because I can't be guaranteed two parochial vicars as I have now from year to year and I can't be guaranteed that a parochial vicar that I have is willing or capable of celebrating the EF Mass, I do not offer it weekly on Sunday but only once a month at at 2 PM. I am able to offer the EF Low Mass every Tuesday at 5 PM but can easily cancel it if no priest who can celebrate it can be present or we could simply make it an ad orientem Ordinary Form Mass for a priest who would be available but not capable of celebrating the EF Mass.
Thus, recognizing that it would be nice to have a weekly Sunday Mass more like the EF Mass but still an OF Mass, we have made our 12:10 PM Mass on Sunday more traditional (or better yet using options that are completely permissible in an OF Mass!).
For the past three years, we have celebrated this Mass ad orientem for the Liturgy of the Eucharist to which I have not received one complaint from a person who normally attends this Mass. I gave a very brief catechesis for it prior to beginning this. We have many visitors passing through Macon on I-75 who are blown away by this Mass simply for the ad orientem part of it and compliment us for it!
At all our Masses we stand behind the altar railing to distribute Holy Communion. For those who stand, which is the majority, the railing does not get into the way when they receive either in the hand or on the tongue. Those who choose to kneel can do so easily, but everyone receives Holy Communion one by one whether kneeling or standing.
Three weeks ago I decided to take tradition one step further at our already more traditional 12:10 PM Mass. We invite the 12:10 PM Mass communicants to use the full length of the altar railing whether they choose to stand or kneel. To my surprise for the past three weeks, the vast majority kneel although the vast majority continue to receive in the hand, many placing their elbows on the railing to make a throne with their hands to receive our Precious Lord. Even this looks very, very reverent! And no one takes Holy Communion in perpetual motion. It is deliberate while kneeling and no one gets up with the host still in their hands, they pause before departing many making the "Sign of the Cross."
The other thing that has truly be astounding to me is that we can distribute Holy Communion at the altar railing only with two doing so (usually the priest and a deacon) in shorter time than it takes four of us doing so at four communion stations! I would we have reduced the communion rite by five minutes! But again, the communicant isn't rushed as they are at communion stations. That's a paradox isn't it! The same was true on Ash Wednesday when we used the altar railing to impose ashes on penitents kneeling at the full length of the railing, it took two ordained men less time to distribute ashes to a packed church than it takes four people to do so at four stations! I kid you not! For Ash Wednesday it cut the ash time by at least 10 minutes! The the ashees were not rushed!
Why was the method of distributing Holy Communion changed from the Latin Rite's time honored, organically developed tradition from kneeling at an altar railing in most churches throughout the world to standing at communion stations? It was done so for dubious reasons and for some ideological reasons too! Let me count the ways!
1. The most inane reason is that "standing" to receive Holy Communion is a "sign and symbol" of being raised up in Christ and that kneeling is a "penitential act" that should only be used as a sign of being penitential. Hogwash of course, let's say that pure and simple. A person laying on their back in their death bed and receiving on their back are still receiving Holy Communion being raised up in Christ!
2. It was thought that receiving standing is the older tradition of the Latin Rite, but it is not the longest tradition in the Latin Rite, kneeling is and for good reasons.
3. Receiving Holy Communion standing was thought to be quicker which it is for the communicant who is rushed at the moment of receiving to move on but much longer in the overall time of the communion rite.
4. Standing to recieve allows for more Communion stations and thus the proliferation of Extraordinary Ministers who are not actually needed if kneeling at the railing had been maintained!
5. Standing stations also allows for the common chalice to be distributed by a hoard additional extraordinary ministers (keep in mind communion under both kinds is meant to be for certain prescribed situations and even in the USA's revised GIRM intinction is a valid options in the Ordinary Form's Missal.
It seems that ideology with hints of history and theology to manipulate the lay faithful and recalcitrant bishops and priests to buy into standing for Holy Communion at Communion stations is at the heart of this much shorter tradition in the Latin Rite and its mandate in the Ordinary Form of the Mass since the late 1960's.