Monday, March 02, 2009

On Holy Communion

Here is a liturgical question that has been perplexing me:

N 162 of the Australian edition of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal states:

162. The priest may be assisted in the distribution of Communion by other priests who happen to be present. If such priests are not present and there is a very large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, i.e., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose.97 In case of necessity, the priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion.98 These ministers should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the priest celebrant the vessel containing either species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful.

Of course we do not see this in our churches. What we actually see refers more to a diocesan instruction: Special Ministers of Communion Archdiocese of Brisbane 1982, revised 1993:

The ministers come to the altar after the sign of peace. After the Lamb of God, the priest gives communion to the ministers —first the bread and then the cup. The priest and the communion ministers then take the eucharist to the people according to the local custom. (Alternatively, ministers may receive communion after they have ministered to the assembly — a stronger sign of their service.)

Note that the current diocesan instruction predates Redemptionis Sacramentum and therefore has the incorrect terminology to start with.

Considering that the GIRM was promulgated in May 2007, how come it is taking so long for the legislated practices to come into line? Or did the bishops sign up to something that they were not going to follow anyway? Just a thought as I hate seeing the lay people in their ordinary clothes looking like concelebrants, when the communion liturgy has still a long way to go.


Summa Theologiae said...

An even more fundamental issue is that they're presence in the first place is often not justified under the norms. When they arrive extra early it simply rubs salt into the wound. I think the psychological effect of having too free recourse to lay people doing an essentially clerical function in this particular regard (extraordinary ministers) is something that too little attention has been given to. What is the effect of this in the mind of potential aspirants to the priesthood? To even mere children (who subconsciously take in a lot)?

Stephen said...

Well this is the moot point. It is an attempt to get lay people as involved in the Mass as possible even to the point of having them appear as quasi-concelebrants. This also feeds the ego of the feministas who want to see women priests.

Summa Theologiae said...

No wonder RS had to emphasis that the role should not be seen as somehow being part of the "active participation" of the faithful.