Lest I be accused of scrupulosity in my words below, let me be clear that there should be a distinction made between true scrupulosity which is related to "obsessive, compulsive disorders" and what many would simply call a legitimate concern for certain matters, especially those of faith. For example, I wash my hands a few times a day, after using the restroom, before celebrating Mass, after touching something unclean, out of a concern for germs and hygiene and for the well being of others with whom I interact. A scrupulous person washing his hands constantly and for no other reason then a scrupulous fear of germs and other psychological issues is a completely different matter. (Do I hear "Purell," anyone?) So with that written, let's go head long into the topic at hand.
One of the things mine eyes has seen since celebrating the EF Mass for over two years now is the rubrical mandate that the particles of the Most Holy Eucharist that could become detached from the consecrated Host in no way be "desecrated" in any intentional or unintentional way; all precautions must be taken even liturgically. Therefore, prior to the consecration, the hands are placed on the altar outside of the corporal cloth which is carefully managed by proper folding and unfolding, using a burse,proper cleaning, etc.
After consecrating the host, the fingers and thumbs that touched the host are joined together so that not even the smallest particle of a particle could be unintentionally "desecrated." When touching the altar, the priest does so on the corporal cloth.The priest even holds the chalice for consecration by having his index finger and thumb joined prior to taking the chalice. Prior to the priest receiving the Precious Blood, he takes the patten and scrapes the corporal cloth of any particles that could have fallen and then places these in the chalice. At the purification of the the chalice, (the priest's fingers and thumbs still joined) the server first places wine in the chalice, so that any droplets of the Precious Blood can be reverently consumed. Then wine and water are poured into the chalice over the priest's fingers and thumbs that may have attached to them particles of the host. The priest drys his fingers, drinks the ablutions and dries the chalice. This is "built in" piety and reverence of the EF Mass that was stripped from the OF Mass. This institutional "care," in the EF Mass is borne of the concern for avoiding "desecration" of the Sacred Species even unintentional,and contributes to the overall respect due our Lord in the Eucharistic Species. It cannot be classified as OCD or personal scrupulosity.
Let's fast forward to today to what many have disparagingly called the "theology of the crumbs" since the reforms of the Mass. I can remember as a teenager and very young adult seeing older priests celebrating the OF Mass using the same rubrics they were taught for the EF Mass as it concerned "crumbs, fingers, thumbs, etc." These priests were accused of scrupulosity by others. I believed this accusation of scrupulosity to be true, because I didn't know these priests had been trained in this custom of reverence by their celebration of the Tridentine Mass and the institutionalized piety, reverence and concern for not desecrating the Eucharistic Species of this Mass. In other words I was mistaken concerning the "rubrics" these older priests employed--it was not their scrupulosity, but their piety instilled by the EF Mass. "Lex Orandi, Lex credendi," the law of prayer is the law of belief.
During the wild time of experimentation with the New Order of the Mass, certainly after it was promulgated,(the 1970's) many "progressive priests, seminaries and parishes" experimented with what was euphemistically called "real bread" as opposed to the unleavened, traditional hosts of Pre-Vatican II. (Anyone recall the sarcastic remark that it was harder to believe that these traditional hosts were real bread, let alone the real Body and Blood of our Savior?)
In my seminary we used bread that had honey in the recipe and salt that in fact acted as a leaven. And in fact, when receiving these "hosts" at Holy Communion, significant crumbs remained on the palm of one's hand. (More about that below)!
As a 23 year old seminarian, I attended the first Mass of a Jesuit priest in 1978 where he used small French Bread loaves with its very crispy crust for the Eucharist. At the Breaking of the Bread at the altar, these loaves were ceremoniously broken by a variety of lay people at the altar and then these were distributed to the laity. I know for a fact, because I saw it with mine eyes, that after Mass, there were crumbs of Consecrated Eucharist, all over the altar and on the carpet where Holy Communion had been distributed! A seminarian friend of mine and myself tried in vain to gather the larger particles from the carpet, but were derided by others who castigated us for the "theology of crumbs!" Do ya think there was an ideology there promoting French Bread Eucharist as well as Holy Communion in the hand? If you believe that our Lord is truly present in all particles of the Eucharistic Bread, then one would be reluctant to use bread that is crumbly, flaky or to receive this type of "Bread" in the hand. So the minimization or ridicule of the Church's faith reality was necessary in order to promote a liturgical innovation and agenda. This trendy agenda at the time lamented what was seen as Liturgical scrupulosity that would motivate "scrupulous" traditional Catholics to have an abhorrence for Eucharistic crumbs on the floor and on one's hands. So undermining one's actual faith in the real Presence of Christ in every speck, crumb, particle and morsel of Holy Communion was necessary for this type of so-called liturgical renewal agenda to go forward, but forward it did go.
This same "theology of crumbs" which is a disparaging description of those whose reverence and belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist includes every particle that is attached to every host, is also carried forward now to the Precious Blood, since there is now wide-spread distribution of the Eucharist under the form of consecrated Wine, from a common chalice or cup.
Many people of an older and more institutionalize piety are concerned that there is a possibility of spilling the Precious Blood by distributing Holy Communion under both forms. Those who promote this custom, both of Holy Communion in the hand and from the chalice say that if particles do fall or the Precious Blood is spilled, God will take care of Himself. I think most of us believe that the all powerful and Almighty God is quite capable of taking care of Himself as well as us. But that's not the point! The point is the reverence we creatures owe to the Almighty God! We actually believe that we must rely upon the Almighty to save us as we cannot do this work of salvation by ourselves. By our worthy reception of Holy Communion, God, Who does not become a part of us in this act, but rather makes us a part of Him is the essence of Superiority in relation to His creatures who receive Him. Should not such an awesome means to accomplish this work of salvation by Almighty God not have the utmost and yes "scrupulous" respect from us, God's creatures?
I have seen with mine own eyes the following--an extra chalice on the altar knocked over by a Communion Minister, thus spilling the Precious Blood everywhere! I have seen children spit the host that was in their mouth into the chalice they were given to drink from. I have seen chewing gum in a chalice because the person receiving accidentally allowed it to fall from her mouth.I have seen the Precious Blood on ties, shirts and blouses, not to mention the floor! I have seen people "self-intinct." I have had extra-ordinary ministers of Holy Communion tell me that some people consume the entire chalice once it is handed to them. I have had Eucharistic ministers tell me that they have a hard time drinking the "dregs" of the Chalice at the end of some 30 people having drunk from the chalice because they fear there is more "backwash of saliva" than Precious Blood remaining. I believe this to be true by the way, because I've had to consume these "dregs!" I don't mind being a martyr for the Holy Mass and the Sacred Species, but I do mind being made to do something that is not necessary in the first place, having 30 to 40 people drink from the same chalice and then cleaning up after that.
Now a conundrum that many will resent me for bringing forward:Intinction! This form of distributing Holy Communion by dipping the Consecrated Host into the Precious Blood with a Paten under the chin of the communicant is permitted in the GIRM of the 2002 Roman Missal. In fact the American bishops in their adaptations of the GIRM state that this is the "second" option available to priests if the priest chooses to follow their bishop's approval for Holy Communion under both kinds, the option of which, of course, is at the discretion of the priest, to allow both Species in his parish or not. He just has to follow the bishop's approval for this permission or exception to allow the chalice for the congregation in the first place. (Have you ever heard people disparagingly call the venerable tradition and ancient one at that, of intinction as "dunking donuts?" Talk about irreverence!You know there is an agenda or ideology at work when you hear that, meaning only the common chalice is legitimate!)(Mine own ears have heard this and mine own tongue has spoken this in the past, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!--dunking donuts, yikes!)
The objection to intinction is that it removes from the communicant the "right" to receive Holy Communion on the palm of the hand. In fact, this is not true, as one could still receive the Host in the hand but not intincted. Then the objection comes that one is removing the "right" of the communicant to receive the Precious Blood if one wants to receive in the hand. Yes--but it is not a liturgical or canonical right to receive the Precious Blood from the Chalice. One receives the Body and Blood of Christ completely under either form. (The only complaints I have received from people since my bishop mandated not allowing the chalice to the people because of H1N1 contagion concerns is that these people felt they were only partially receiving Holy Communion! (More about contagion in a future blog!)
Now, if we buy into the "theology of the Crumbs" in its disparaging way as encouraging us not to be worried about the "crumbs" as scrupulous people are, then we are not concerned that to this very day when people receive even the traditional consecrated host in their hands, that it is possible for small and even larger particles to adhere to their palm,finger and thumb. I have seen with my mine own eyes, children and adults dust off their hands after receiving the host or wipe them on their clothes, or simply ignore any particles of the Sacred Species that might adhere to the palm, thumb or finger of one's hand.
So my question of logic: if we don't worry about these sorts of things anymore,(the theology of crumbs) why not place an "intincted" host onto the palm of the communicant? There really isn't that much Consecrated Wine on the Host. And if the palm gets wet from the Precious Blood, why not rub your hands together to dry it, wipe them on your clothes or simply ignore it? Concern about this is the "theology of scrupulosity" after all, isn't it? My point is, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. I think we should be concerned about both forms of possible intentional or unintentional desecration of the Sacred Species! But that implies returning to the exclusive distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue and to a pre-Vatican II, now post Vatican II with the EF Mass, institutionalized "scrupulosity" but what preferably should be called awe, wonder, respect and reverence for the Sacred Species and fear concerning either intentional or unintentional desecration of the Same.
In a later post I will rant about "germs, viruses, H1N1, the common chalice and the Precious Blood and if one can get sick from drinking the Precious Blood." A clue, no the Precious Blood will not make you sick if your receive or Lord worthily. However, if I drop a bit of arsenic into it you could get sick or even die, no matter how strong your faith in the Real Presence. In other words, germs, viruses and poisons intentionally or unintentionally placed into the Precious Blood after or before the wine is consecrated can make you sick. These poisons, germs and viruses do not become the Precious Blood, but remain independent of the Precious Blood. Thus a deadly poison even in a very small amount can kill you if you drink the Precious Blood. And if you drink the Precious Blood, although poisoned, and in a state of grace, well, what a way to go! More later.....