Tuesday, May 27, 2008

On Worship

In a change from the norm, the Pope distributed the Eucharist at Thursday's Corpus Christi Mass to kneeling communicants.

The Vatican's chief liturgist, however, says that the tradition-as-chic move was more a nod to the feast than a new fixture of papal worship:
In a brief e-mail to Catholic News Service May 23, Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, said the decision "was a solution adopted for (the feast of) Corpus Domini," but as for the future, "we'll see."

Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, told CNS "there is no discussion" in the Vatican about insisting that those who receive Communion from the pope do so kneeling or that they receive it on the tongue rather than in their hands.

In addition, he said, "there are no new norms coming" that would change the Vatican's 1969 decision that local bishops could allow their faithful to receive the Eucharist in their hands while standing.

"But the gesture of the Holy Father" at the May 22 Mass "is to be appreciated. It brings out in a better way the fact that we adore the Lord whom we receive" in the Eucharist, Archbishop Ranjith said.

"It was a special occasion" because the feast focuses on Jesus truly present in the Eucharist, he said. "I hope this practice spreads."

In a preface to a January book about the beauty of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling, Archbishop Ranjith had said he thought it was time for the Catholic Church to reconsider its decision to allow the faithful to receive Communion in the hand.

Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican press office, said he did not think the May 22 Mass marked a permanent change; "according to current norms the faithful may receive in the hand while standing," he said.

However, he said, the practice chosen for the special feast day was another example of what Msgr. Marini has said would be the practice at papal Masses, "alternating the old and new to indicate continuity with the past."

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Benedict spoke about the importance of "kneeling before the Lord, adoration that begins at the Mass itself and accompanies the entire (Corpus Christi) procession" through the streets of Rome.

"To adore the body of Christ means to believe that there, in that piece of bread, there really is Christ who gives meaning to our lives," the pope said in his homily.
One thing the Holy See does want to change on a more stable basis -- and not just for the Pope's Masses -- is what it views as an excess of concelebrants at large celebrations.

The issue first came up in the plans for last month's papal visit to the States, when Vatican officials unsuccessfully attempted to extend the Papal Chapel's practice of concelebration by invitation only to B16's three public liturgies on these shores. Now, a development first reported in the Italian weekly Panorama says that the Pope has entrusted the matter to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, with an eye to an instruction that would limit concelebration to "precise circumstances" and forbid the practice, now common, of vested clergy concelebrating from outside the sanctuary.

In Rome, all clergy present concelebrate at but one Mass all year: the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass. The rest of the time, the privilege is reserved either to the cardinals in attendance or other small groups of key prelates contingent on the event in question.

Of course, in the field, a new policy would mean that keeping the clergy in one place for larger Masses would require use of choir dress -- i.e. cassock and surplice -- by all non-concelebrating clerics.

Suffice it to say, as having those on-hand isn't a given for many, if not most, priests, such a move would surely herald a new springtime... for the vesture houses.

PHOTO: Reuters