Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My First Daily Mass sans Common Chalice and Sign of Peace

I just celebrated my first daily Mass without the common chalice and the sign of peace. I had mixed feelings. First I must disclose that as a liturgical child of the 1960's and 70's and as a priest, I have always been a strong proponent that the laity should be allowed the "option" to receive from the chalice. In every parish where I have been assigned, the common chalice was available to the laity at all Masses, no matter what. I was convinced that what I was told by those who should have known that the alcohol content of the wine with the wiping of the rim of the chalice and turning the chalice lowered the possibility of the spreading of serious germs and viruses.

Over the last several years, though, I have become a skeptic of what I was told in terms of no risk of contracting germs or viruses from the common chalice. After all faith and reason walk hand-in-hand and to believe that the Lord would not allow us to contract a germ or virus from the common chalice is a bit naive. I have been reluctant to drink what remains of the Precious Blood after 50 people more or less may have consumed from the chalice, let alone place my lips to the chalice. I have preferred rather to clean these in the sacraium and not by drinking the ablutions. I have felt guilty asking others to drink what remains and to drink the ablutions also.

I think the tradition of the Eastern Rite of the Church which is permissible in the Latin Rite is what we should allow. In fact it is liturgically legal without further permission from the bishop. That is intinction, where the ordinary or extraordinary minister dips the consecrated host into the precious blood and places Holy Communion on the tongue of the communicant. The communicant, though, is forbidden to do this for himself. I have seen Pope Benedict as recently as the last Easter Vigil do this at St. Peter Basilica. In the Eastern Rite, this method of distributing Holy Communion has centuries of tradition.

Now for the sign of peace and omitting it. This came into vogue in the revised Mass around 1968. I can remember many people objecting to it because it seemed misplaced and broke one's prayerful anticipation of receiving Holy Communion because one's focus changed from the altar where our Lord is present sacramentally, to our neighbor. Many were confused about the nature of this "handshake of peace" and began to see it has a pleasant greeting rather than a desire of "peace" which only God can give to the world and the Church and ultimately only in heaven. In many places the sign of peace became overblown with people, including priests, going throughout the church glad handing everyone. This is not what the sign of peace is meant to symbolize and it is only a symbol and should not be done in such a literal way as became the custom in so many parishes.

I'm glad Bishop Boland teaches that this is optional and not mandated. I also have read where Pope Benedict is amenable to moving the Sign of Peace prior to the Eucharistic Prayer, perhaps after the Credo or General Intercessions. Time will tell. But to be quite honest, I don't miss the Sign of Peace at all. However, we must emphasize to receive Holy Communion worthily, we should also be striving to live peacefully with others and to be reconciled with them if we have anything against our brother. The symbol of the sign of peace though muddles this truth.


Templar said...

Bless you Father for this post.

On the Sign of Peace, like you I feel it is over done and misunderstood by many, and it becomes a glad handing distraction at quite possibly the worst possible time of the Liturgy when we should be focused wholly upon the Sacrifice taking place on the Altar.

On the distribution of the Chalice and the alternatives offered by GIRM 287, i.e. Intinction, I can only say please Father, please. Offer the option, now while the timing is convenient as a result of the H1N1 restrictions in place. It would probably be more practical as well as beneficial to the our interior disposition if kneelers were available too.

Lead us Father and we will follow.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Templar.

Anonymous said...

It is nothing but a distraction and creates anxiety for a good number of people despite its' intentions. It should probably be suppressed.